Soon, vaccines in every rural clinic
MANILA, Philippines – To improve the immunization coverage in the Philippines, the health department will strengthen its vaccine cold chain from the national level down to the rural health units (RHU).
Instead of keeping vaccines in the regional office, every hospital and every RHU will soon receive vaccine refrigerators prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This will make the vaccines accessible to more Filipinos. (READ: Another study finds no link between vaccine, autism)
"What is the importance of that? Kung ikaw ay barangay health worker, nurse, ang hirap na pumupunta ka pa sa regional office para magdala ng bakuna at umikot sa mga barangay, and that has been identified as a gap. That’s why we’re putting it on the level of the municipality," Health Secretary Janette Garin said in the Usapang Bakuna forum on Tuesday, April 22.
(What is the importance of that? If you are a barangay health worker, a nurse, it's hard for you to still have to go to the regional office to get vaccines and then go around the barangays, and that has been identified as a gap. That’s why we’re putting it on the level of the municipality.)
About 540 units of vaccine refrigerators have already been procured, but DOH will get at least 3,000 more. With each unit worth P120,000 ($2,713.74), the procurement – which will be funded by sin tax revenues – will cost around P360 million ($8.14 million).
To date, the country has 1,490 municipalities – all with an RHU that caters to the municipality's health needs.
The DOH will assign trained cold chain managers in RHUs, since vaccines are only as good as when they are properly stored and handled.
These managers will be in charge of monitoring vaccine temperature twice a day. Health workers who serve in the barangays can refill their vaccine supply at the RHUs. (READ: Girls in PH’s poorest provinces to get cervical cancer protection)
"We cannot do away with immunization. Bakit natin ipagkakait sa mga bata (Why would we deprive children) – if not, the whole community – when we were given resources, when sin tax revenues are actually there to provide more vaccines and to provide a bigger coverage," Garin said.
New, vaccine-specific targets
The health secretary also revealed on Tuesday that her department's regional offices have come up with their own roadmaps to hit new, vaccine-specific targets instead of the initial target to "fully immunize" every child.
"Para makita natin na per bakuna, na-reach ba yung 95%? Hindi na siya pangkabuuan, because sometimes it could look high but actually there were vaccines that were missed. We dissected it to individual vaccines," Garin said.
(This is so that we can check if per vaccine, the 95% target has been reached. Our monitoring will no longer be very general – including all vaccines – because sometimes it could look high but actually there were vaccines that were missed. We dissected it to individual vaccines.)
The Philippines' Expanded Program on Immunization began in 1979 and aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality among children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, and tuberculosis. – Rappler.com
*1 US$ = P44.22