Measles outbreak declared in Manila

Desiree Burns
February 9, 2019

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday (February 6) declared an outbreak of measles in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Dr Gundo Weiler, World Health Organisation representative to the Philippines, said immunisation rates were far below the target of 95 per cent and continuing to fall in the light of the Dengvaxia scare.

Parents have been reluctant to have their children immunised at government health centres, after complications related to a dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia.

The DOH Epidemiology Bureau, which conducts disease surveillance, said that as of January 26, there were 441 measles cases and five deaths in NCR.

An outbreak of measles has been declared in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas, which came following a dip in immunization coverage past year following the controversy on anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

"That's why our teams are going around the cities, and they are doing the outbreak management and it includes vaccination of all children in the community", he said.

The health secretary said that Calabarzon, a collective name for the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, had the highest number of measles cases at 575, including nine deaths. There were at least five deaths reported in Manila, it added.

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A study a year ago (2018) by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said public confidence in vaccines in the Philippines plunged to 32 per cent from 93 per cent in 2015 because of the government's "highly politicised" response to the Dengvaxia scare. It also ordered a halt to the marketing and selling of Dengvaxia after the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur admitted those injected with it risked having severe dengue if they had no prior infections. The scare started in late 2017, shortly after the government, then under President Benigno Aquino III, gave Dengvaxia to some 837,000 students as part of a public immunization campaign.

Convocar assured parents that the measles vaccine is safe and effective.

In the first three quarters of last year (2018), the number of unvaccinated children rose to over 960,000 from some 850,000 a year earlier.

Officials of the the Department of Health in Western Visayas are urging government-run hospitals to dedicate a "measles room". "Let's have them inoculated before the outbreak of measles worsens", Sen.

The health department reported that vaccine coverage rate plunged to 40 per cent a year ago (2018) from 70 per cent in 2017. "He was saddened, so he said it should be addressed immediately", Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"I hope concerns like this should not be politicized because the lives of the children are at stake here", she said.

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