Less than half of target children get measles vaccine

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Less than half of target children get measles vaccine
The health department calls the attention of about 40 provinces and cities with low performance in the month-long mass immunization against measles and polio

MANILA, Philippines – Two weeks after the Department of Health (DOH) launched its month-long mass immunization campaign, only 44% of the target number of children had received vaccines for measles-rubella and oral polio.

In a press conference Thursday, September 18, Health Undersecretary Janette Garin said the department’s target is to reach 50% by 2nd week of September.

We need a more aggressive campaign now na nasimulan na natin. Being on [its] 2nd week, supposedly nasa 50% na ang nareach [ng campaign],” she explained.

(We need a more aggressive campaign now that we already started it. Being on [its] 2nd week, supposedly the campaign already reached 50%.)

There are several reasons why DOH did not hit the target, Garin said. Some areas started the campaign late, while some are still recovering from disasters.

There are also areas which lacked preparation. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), for example, DOH had to sort through issues of logistical support.

Hindi basta-basta puwedeng ibaba kung ‘di mo ma-assure na yung pondo ay mapupunta sa pagpapabakuna,” she said, adding that the funds from the Central Office are only supplementary to funds of the local government.

(You can’t just make fund releases if you can’t be sure they will really go to vaccination.)

Measles is a viral, 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.

From January 1 to August 9, 2014, the DOH recorded 48,779 suspected cases of measles. Out of this number, 16,743 are confirmed cases.

Participation of provinces, cities

Garin praised the provinces and cities with the highest immunization rates:

Top performing provinces

Measles-Rubella (54% to 64%) Oral Polio (53% to 68%)



Bataan Biliran
Cagayan Bataan
Davao Oriental Davao Oriental
Biliran Cagayan
Zambales Nueva Vizcaya
Nueva Vizcaya Zambales 
Apayao Apayao
Ifugao Ifugao
Ilocos Sur Quezon

Top performing cities

Measles-Rubella (63% to 84%) Oral Polio (60% to 78%)


Calamba Gingoog
Gingoog Meycuayan
Meycauayan Balanga
Balanga Angeles
Urdaneta Urdaneta
Angeles Valencia
Pagadian Pagadian
Valencia Calamba
San Carlos San Juan

In the National Capital Region, the top performing cities for measles-rubella immunization (47% to 62%) are San Juan, Navotas, Caloocan, Las Piñas, and Valenzuela. For the oral polio vaccine, the top performing cities (47% to 60%) are San Juan, Las Piñas, Caloocan, Navotas, and Pateros.

But the areas below have some catching up to do:

Low performing areas for measles-rubella and oral polio immunization

Provinces Cities NCR




Maguindanao Manila Muntinlupa
Basilan Cagayan de Oro Makati
Sulu Calapan Pasay
Mindoro Oriental Bais Malabon
Palawan Dasmariñas  
Dinagat Island Tanjay  
Bohol Muntinlupa  
Camarines Norte Makati  
Leyte Pasay  
Ilocos Norte Ozamis  
Catanduanes Oroquieta  
Zamboanga del Norte Iriga  
Zamboanga Sibugay Bayawan  
Surigao del Norte Surigao  
Aklan Calbayog  
Surigao del Sur Vigan  
Cebu Baguio  
Siquijor Ormoc  
La Union Cabadbaran  
Albay Bacoor  
  Puerto Princesa  

Garin said the fight of the country against measles will be “useless” if not everyone will cooperate. She urged local government units to help reach children in their locality.

The campaign aims to achieve at least 95% vaccination coverage at all administrative levels. (READ: Measles-free Philippines by 2017?)





9 months to under 5 years old

 11 million


At birth up to under 5 years old

13 million

The target covers children who received their vaccination from health centers, barangay health stations, local churches, and other designated vaccination posts. 

Sayang naman kung patuloy nating papayagan yung isang sakit na manatili sa bansa natin [kung] meron naman tayong pera at kakayanan para sugpuin ito,” she said.

(It’s a shame if we will let a disease affect our country when we have the resources and the capability to fight it.)

She added: “Mahirap kung maraming missed children from 0-5 [years old] dahil sila [ang] source ng infection (It’s hard to have a lot of missed chldren from 0-5 years old because they can be the source of the infection).”

Sustain awareness

DOH is deploying rapid coverage assessment teams in areas with low immunization rates. If the teams find at least 2 unvaccinated children, it means the area has not yet been fully covered by the campaign.

If the teams find no unvaccinated children, the department will declare the area fully-covered, since the actual number of children is different from the estimated target. 

Garin said there is a need to sustain the awareness on the importance of immunization to reach the 95% target. After all, some of the complications of measles are permanent, like blindness. The disease can also be deadly.

Nung una very maingay [yung campaign]. Ang bilis makalimutan. Kailangan pa ng dagdag na ingay. It’s not the cost, it’s the lives that we can save,” she added.

(There was a lot of noise at the start of the campaign. People are quick to forget. We need to make some more noise. It’s not the cost, it’s the lives that we can save.)

Despite missing its initial target, Garin hopes the health department will still reach the 95% target, so that the campaign would not have to be extended. 

“If we extend, the more difficult it will be to fight it. But as the need arises, we will make a decision,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The Philippines, which “exported” measles to other countries, hopes to eliminate measles by 2017. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.