immunization program in the Philippines

DOH reminds public to get kids vaccinated as pertussis cases climb

Michelle Abad

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DOH reminds public to get kids vaccinated as pertussis cases climb

VACCINATION. Children's vaccination is in full swing in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, as ordered by Mayor Neil Lizares due to the pertussis threat in the province.

Talisay City government

Health authorities say the Philippines still has enough stock of pentavalent vaccines effective against pertussis, with some 6 million doses expected to arrive by July

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday, April 11, reminded the public to get their children vaccinated as pertussis or whooping cough cases climbed in the first quarter of 2024.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Health Secretary Ted Herbosa reported 1,112 pertussis cases from January to March, with 54 deaths. Of these, some 70% were hospitalized.

Majority of these cases were younger than five years old.

“If you look at the trends, we are still looking at an increasing trend. And we hope immunization will help stem the transmission of pertussis cases,” Herbosa said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Herbosa emphasized that all 54 deaths so far were vaccine-preventable. Picking up from dialogues with the Quezon City local government unit (LGU), he said that many of the children who were hospitalized had already been sick for days, and should have been given antibiotics by the time they had reached four to five days without getting better.

Quezon City is among the LGUs that have declared a pertussis outbreak, together with Iloilo City and Cavite province.

“In fact, last year, many of these LGUs had no case of pertussis because we were able to prevent these with vaccination,” said Herbosa.

Ang problema, ‘pag dumadami ang numero ng bata na hindi bakunado sa pertussis, ay kumakalat ‘yung cases,” he added. (The problem is, when the number of unvaccinated children increases, the disease spreads more.)

Children can be protected from pertussis by getting vaccinated with a five-in-one DPT-HepB-HiB vaccine, also called the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus; hepatitis B; and Haemophilus influenzae type B.

These are given in three doses, starting at six months old. Younger children below six months, who do not usually get ill with pertussis, are getting infected by older children who are unvaccinated, Herbosa said.

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The DOH chief said the country still has a steady supply of the pentavalent vaccine until May – around 2 to 3 million. However, with the vaccination campaign ongoing, and more LGUs declaring outbreaks, health authorities believe that these will run out fast.

Around 6 million procured pentavalent vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the country by July.

For the past three weeks, the following regions have reported new cases of pertussis: Eastern Visayas, Cagayan Valley, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Central Luzon, and the Cordillera Administrative Region. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.