The measles outbreak could last until June
, the leader of the country’s leading professional association of specialists in infectious diseases and microbiology said Wednesday.
At a forum, Dr. Mario Panaligan, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said records show that the number of measles cases goes up during summer when people tend to stay outdoors, increasing their chances of exposure.
Panaligan said it was important to push vaccination to shorten the length of the measles outbreak.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said all government agencies have mobilized their resources for a massive information dissemination and immunization campaign to encourage Filipinos to get vaccinated.
“The Department of Health is working side by side with other government agencies in quickly responding to mitigate the measles outbreak,” said Duque, who said vaccination remains the best defense against measles.
He said several government agencies have already laid out specific tasks to ensure communities are protected against the highly contagious disease.
All government efforts, he said are focused on completing the mass immunization campaign in the fastest possible time.
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Duque has repeatedly called the public to receive the measles vaccine, saying it has long been proven to be safe and effective. Hs noted that immunization activities will be done in schools and communities until March.
With the quick vaccination, he said he expected a decline in measles cases. Although the government will give priority to the vaccination of children, he said adults may also go to their nearest health center to get vaccinated.
The following are the tasks of the different government agencies:
• DOH—measles fast lines to be established in all DOH hospitals
• Department of the Interior and Local Government—develop checklists, targets, and consent forms for local government units in coordination with the DOH
• Department of Social Welfare and Development—tap day care workers to help facilitate vaccination of pupils and ensure children of 4Ps beneficiaries are vaccinated
• Department of Education—gather data on number of school children affected with measles, coordinate with health centers for checkups and followups of students who will be vaccinated by private doctors
• Department of Transportation—assist in distributing vaccines and other logistics needs
• Armed Forces of the Philippines—deploy medical personnel in geographically isolated areas and conflict areas, ensure safety of health workers, and monitor cases of measles in military treatment centers
• Philippine Information Agency—conduct information and awareness campaigns to be localized for different areas.
The mass immunization campaign comes after the DOH declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.
Earlier, the DOH had been conducting supplementary immunization activities and outbreak response immunization to combat the rising trend in measles cases.
DOH records showed there were 4,302 confirmed cases of measles. It also listed at least 70 deaths due to the disease as of Feb. 10, 2019.
As government agencies scrambled to deal with the measles outbreak, Senator Risa Hontiveros continued her word war with Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda Acosta.
READ: Measles outbreak: Politics rears ugly head
Responding to Acosta’s claim that vaccination rates were falling for years, even before the Dengvaxia scare, Hontiveros said the PAO chief failed to mention that these coverage rates fell to an all-time low in 2018.
Hontiveros blames Acosta for the recent measles outbreak, saying her statements at the height of the Dengvaxia controversy lowered the people’s confidence in the government’s immunization program.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara on Wednesday urged the DOH to ensure a stable supply of measles vaccines.
“The DOH must ensure consistent and adequate supply of measles vaccines in anticipation of increased demand as many people rush to protect themselves and their children from the virus,” Angara said.
Angara, who is seeking reelection in May, was in Bataan on Wednesday for a political rally organized by Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
READ: Measles outbreak: 70 dead