President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday called on parents, to have their children vaccinated against measles
as outbreaks of the highly contagious disease have been reported in several parts of the country
In a public service announcement, Duterte informed the parents of the consequences of not having their children vaccinated.
“My countrymen, the cases of measles are rising and it can cause death. For our children, having them vaccinated is the only way to avoid from this disease,” the President said.
Duterte’s announcement came after he ordered the Department of Health to conduct a vigorous campaign to promote the complete immunization for children.
The DOH earlier released a separate PSA video featuring Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Senator Manny Pacquiao.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that efforts to halt the spread of measles were “backsliding” with case numbers worldwide surging around 50 percent last year.
The UN health agency pointed to preliminary data showing that the disturbing trend of resurgent measles cases was happening at a global level, including in wealthy nations where vaccination coverage has historically been high.
“Our data are showing that there is a substantial increase in measles cases. We’re seeing this in all regions,” Katherine O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunization, vaccines, and biologicals, told reporters in Geneva.
“We’re having outbreaks that are protracted, that are sizable and that are growing,” she said. “This is not an isolated problem.”
O’Brien pointed out that less than 10 percent of actual measles cases are reported.
“So when we see the reported cases increasing by 50 percent, we know that we’re heading in the wrong direction,” she said, adding that the true number of infections was “in the millions.”
Countries have until April to report measles cases registered in 2018 to the WHO.
But the agency said the data it has received so far showed that around 229,000 cases had already been reported, compared to 170,000 for 2017.
Last year, measles caused about 136,000 deaths around the world, according to WHO’s preliminary figures.
Measles is a highly contagious disease, which can cause severe diarrhea, pneumonia and vision loss and can be fatal in some cases, and remains “an important cause of death among young children,” the WHO says.
This is frustrating since the disease can be easily prevented with two doses of a “safe and efficient” vaccine that has been in use since the 1960s, the UN agency said.
Up until 2016, the number of measles cases had been steadily declining, but since 2017 the number has soared, according to Katrina Kretsinger, who heads WHO’s expanded immunization program.
“There are a number of outbreaks ... which are driving some of these increases,” she told reporters, pointing to significant outbreaks in Ukraine, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Sierra Leone.
In Madagascar alone, “from October 2018 through 12 February 2019, a total of 66,278 cases and 922 deaths have been reported,” WHO said.
In poorer countries, marginalized communities and states in conflict, lacking access to the vaccine is the problem.
In Europe and other wealthy areas, meanwhile, experts blame the problem in part on complacency and misinformation about the vaccine.
The resurgence of the disease in some countries has been linked to medically baseless claims linking the measles vaccine to autism, which have been spread in part on social media by members of the so-called “anti-vax” movement.
“We’re backsliding on the progress that has been made,” O’Brien said.
“And we’re not backsliding because we don’t have the tools to prevent this. We do have the tools to prevent measles,” she said.
“We’re backsliding because of the failure to vaccinate.”
The Health department’s regional director for the Calabarzon region, Eduardo Janairo, said he would enlist the help of other government agencies to ensure that all school children get their dose of measles vaccines.
READ: PAO chief: Vaccines lack led to measles outbreak
Because of the severity and the comprehensive coverage of the measles outbreak, he said the DOH-Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) will be collaborate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to involve their day care workers in ensuring that all their pupils will be vaccinated.
Janairo said they will also seek the help of the Department of Education to ensure that all school children will get their dose of measles vaccine, the Department of Interior and Local Government to request for the extension of immunization schedules beyond regular hours and provide supplemental immunization activity from February to March. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and AFP
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