By Catherine A Modesto/Manila Times
At least 70 people had died in the measles outbreak as the number of cases rose to more than 4,300, the Department of Health (DoH) said yesterday.
From January 1 to February 9, the Health department’s epidemiology bureau recorded 4,302 cases, 66% of which had no prior history of vaccination against measles.
This figure was higher than the 1,935 recorded in the same period in 2018 by 122%. The DoH said Metro Manila had the most number of cases at 1,296 and 18 deaths.
This was followed by Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) with 1,086 cases and 25 deaths; Central Luzon with 481 cases with three deaths; Western Visayas with 212 cases and four deaths; and Northern Mindanao with 189 cases and two deaths.
Of the total recorded fatalities, 79% were not immunised.
Most came from Calabarzon. Eastern Visayas, Mimaropa, Calabarzon, Central Visayas and Bicol, showed an increasing trend of cases this week, the DoH added.
In Tarlac alone, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit 3 (RESU3) said there were only 47 cases of measles in 2018 but in January 2019, at least 445 cases were recorded.
Of the figure, the DoH confirmed 192 confirmed cases in the province and four deaths as of January 26.
A 21-day-old infant was the youngest listed patient at the Tarlac Provincial Hospital, which had 22 new admissions over the weekend.
According to the Health department, 34% of the patients were aged one to four years and 27% were less than nine months old. The DoH attributed the epidemic in some regions to “vaccine hesitancy,” which refers to the “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque yesterday reiterated his appeal to the public to “rebuild their trust and confidence in vaccines long proven to be effective.” He also said more parents seem to have changed their views on the vaccination programme by getting free vaccines in health centres for their children, unlike in previous months due to the vaccine scare.
“When I visited Baseco compound, there were over 500 children who got vaccinated.
In Pansol village in Quezon City, I remember almost 300 got vaccinated. This is a far cry from what we witnessed in the past where there was no one coming or lining up,” Duque said.
The DoH said it would continue its vaccination drive against measles until the immunisation coverage reaches 90 to 95%. Although the department admitted that it failed to reach its immunisation target for the past 10 years, its vaccination coverage had been at 70 to 80%, Undersecretary Rolando Domingo said in a television interview.
The health official noted that Metro Manila’s immunisation rates in 2018 went down to less than 40%, making children vulnerable.
Domingo was reacting to the statement of Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta, who put the blame back at the DoH for allegedly failing to protect the public from measles.
Domingo said Acosta’s claim that the controversial Dengvaxia had killed a lot of schoolchildren, “aggravated” the already below-target immunisation rates.
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