BARMM health ministry declares measles outbreak across region

Ferdinandh Cabrera

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BARMM health ministry declares measles outbreak across region


BARMM's religious advisory council says its fatwah has affirmed the Islamic acceptance of the anti-measles vaccines

COTABATO, Philippines – The health ministry of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) declared on Thursday, March 21, a measles outbreak in the Muslim-majority region.

The BARMM’S Ministry of Health said it has so far recorded 592 cases and three deaths due to measles across the Bangsamoro region since January.

Lanao del Sur was the hardest-hit province in BARMM, accounting for 37% of the region’s measles cases, with 220 cases, said Zul Qarneyn Abas, BARMM’s deputy health minister.

Two of the three measles-related deaths were documented in Lanao del Sur, with the third reported in Sulu province.

Maguindanao del Norte followed Lanao del Sur, representing 27.5% or 163 of BARMM’s measles cases since the beginning of the year.

Sulu logged 91 cases, comprising 15% of the total, while Marawi City accounted for 13.5% with 80 measles infections.

Meanwhile, BARMM’s Special Geographic Area (SGA) in Cotabato province and Maguindanao del Sur each recorded 11 cases, Cotabato City had four cases, and Tawi-Tawi had three.

Measles, a highly contagious viral infection, is characterized by symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, and rashes. It spreads through respiratory droplets, leading to serious complications, particularly in young children and the unvaccinated. Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent measles outbreaks.

The region’s health ministry announced that it would launch a free measles vaccination campaign for 21 days beginning on April 1. It also called on parents to ensure their children receive vaccine shots. The first shot is administered at nine months, with the second given when a child reaches one year old.

Abas said BARMM officials have sought the help of Muslim religious leaders in helping the government in its campaign to encourage the unvaccinated to get jabbed. She said religious groups, particularly the Darul Iftah in the BARMM, the Muslim religious advisory council of the region, can play a vital role in the immunization program.

She said there was a low turnout in the measles vaccination campaign, especially in remote areas, due to public hesitancy fueled by misconceptions about the halal nature of vaccines.

Ustadz Montaser Paki of the Bangsamoro Darul Iftah said they will spearhead an information campaign and disseminate a fatwah they issued, affirming the Islamic acceptance of the anti-measles vaccines. A fatwah is a religious decree or opinion issued by Islamic scholars on matters within Islamic law and practice

“The Bangsamoro people must be prepared to cooperate with our health workers to ensure their children are vaccinated, preventing larger outbreaks. For the sake of survival, one cannot deem it haram (forbidden). We must remain flexible and seek solutions when faced with necessity,” Paki said.

Abas said BARMM’S health officials were aiming to administer anti-measles vaccines to at least 95% of those identified to be eligible to receive jabs throughout the region. 

“With herd immunity, isolated cases of measles would not easily escalate within the community as the majority are vaccinated,” said Abas. –

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