DOH to give catch-up measles vaccinations in 7 provinces
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health is urging mothers to bring their children to health centers starting Thursday, January 23, as the department expands its measles catch-up vaccination campaign.
The expanded drive wil cover two million Filipino children in Metro Manila and 7 other provinces.
The campaign, which began at the start of the year, will now include children aged 6 months to 3 years in Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Bulacan, and Pampanga.
These areas, some of which are close to outbreak areas, reported an increase in the number of measles cases or deaths among children 3 years old and below, the health department said in a statement Tuesday, January 21.
Some communities in these areas also have low vaccine coverage, high population density, and high population mobility.
Measles is a viral and highly-contagious respiratory disease. Infected persons exhibit symptoms such as high fever, red eyes, runny nose, and cough. Rashes appear throughout the body after two days.
The illness can be spread through cough or direct contact with body secretions of an infected person. A person with measles can pass the disease on to 18 other people.
Only in health centers
The vaccination of children aged 6 months old is only recommended for places with an outbreak. This is 3 months earlier than the prescribed age for the first vaccine (9 to 11 months) which they should still get, as well as the booster shot at 15 months old.
The first vaccine is 90% effective, while the booster is 100% effective, DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag earlier said.
In normal conditions, 6 months old is too early for a measles vaccination because maternal antibodies still persist in the baby, rendering the vaccine useless.
During the campaign period, which will run until February 3, only health centers in the 8 areas will provide free measles shots from Mondays to Fridays, from 8 am to 12 noon. Other health services will also be available to mothers and their families.
In areas with low turnouts at health centers, local government units (LGUs) may deploy their teams to prevent further outbreaks of the communicable disease. (READ: Ona: Take health care out of politicians' hands)
Heath Secretary Enrique Ona also reminded LGUs to strengthen other routine immunizations for children.
A nationwide measles and oral polio vaccination will be conducted for the whole month of September, targeting 13 million Filipino children. This is the long-term solution of the department for its target of a measles-free nation by 2017. (READ: Measles-free Philippines by 2017?)
Watch Rappler's interview with Health Secretary Enrique Ona below.
– Jee Geronimo/Rappler.com