DOH: Measles upsurge due to kids missing free vaccination

Michael Bueza

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A DOH report notes that 88% of cases in Metro Manila have had no history of previous measles vaccination

VACCINATION. Health Secretary Enrique Ona talks to a parent of a young boy, who would be administered a measles vaccine by Ona in Bgy. Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City. Photo by Michael Bueza/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The recent upsurge of measles cases in certain areas of the country, especially Metro Manila, was due to children missing crucial measles vaccinations at an early age, the health department said on Monday, January 6.

The irony is that the vaccines are readily available for free in rural health clinics across the country.

Latest figures from government showed that the number of confirmed cases in Metro Manila in 2013 was almost 17 times more than the figure from 2012.

Of the 417 cases of measles recorded in the national capital region 2013, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said 88% didn’t have any history of vaccination.

In a press conference, Ona attributed the increase in measles cases to children missing their preliminary and booster vaccination shots. Babies aged 6 to 11 months should be administered their first vaccine shot. At 12 to 18 months, they should get vaccination a second time.

“There are a good number of parents who, for one reason or another, don’t get their child vaccinated,” said Ona. As an example, he cited certain tribes or religious sectors whose members refuse vaccinations.

The Department of Health (DOH) was able to vaccinate only 85% of Filipino children during the last nationwide vaccination program in 2011, he said.

“As you go in the last 3 years, there were a lot of children who missed the vaccinations, making them suscepticle to measles,” Ona continued.

“The point is, there should have been no more measles in Metro Manila, or even in the whole Philippines, but that has not happened yet. The Philippines is not yet measles-free,” said Ona.

The DOH is slated to conduct another nationwide vaccination drive this year.

Extent of the outbreak

Ona said that the DOH is aware of the measles outbreak in certain areas of the country, and is closely coordinating with local health officials to address the matter.

“Yes, there have been an increase in reports in some areas in Metro Manila. We are aware of it. We are monitoring it very closely,” said Ona.

Ona then clarified to media the definition of an outbreak. “It means that there have been cases of a disease – either suspected or confirmed – in a community or a locality where in the past there was none.”

Even a single case, if it is the first ever in area, is considered an outbreak, he said.

There were a total of 1,724 measles cases reported nationwide, from Jan 1 to Dec 14, 2013, with 21 deaths.

Latest figures in the National Capital Region (NCR) from the DOH Center for Health Development (CHD) show that there have been 417 confirmed measles cases, including 3 deaths, logged in 2013. In 2012, only 25 cases were reported in NCR.

Children between one and 4 years old were affected the most, consisting 38% of the cases.

Las Piñas City reported the most number of measles cases with 78, followed by Manila (72), Muntinlupa City (65), Caloocan City (45), and Parañaque City (32).

The DOH report also noted that 88% of the measles cases in the NCR in 2013 had no history of previous measles vaccination.

Ona said that all cities in Metro Manila have been actively expanding their vaccination drives since September 2013, when most measles cases started rising drastically.

“As a matter of fact, in December 2013 in the city of Manila, there was a 28% decrease in suspected measles cases. In Caloocan City, there were no suspected cases in November and December,” said Ona.

“There is no reason to be scared, or to be too concerned. However, it is imperative that the parents take a good look at their children always, so that when symptoms of measles appear, the child should be brought to the hospital or health center,” Ona added.

When asked if adults can also avail themselves of measles vaccines, Ona said that they could, but the children are top priority. –

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.