MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday identified vaccine hesitancy of the public as one of the reasons for the recent measles outbreak in some regions of the country.

In a statement, DOH defined vaccine hesitancy as the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.

"The causes of measles outbreak involved a number of factors or elements. Loss of public confidence and trust in vaccines in the immunization program brought about by the Dengvaxia controversy has been documented as one of many factors that contributed to vaccine hesitancy in the country. This refers to mothers who became hesitant to have their children vaccinated with vaccines that were long proven to be effective," the statement read.

In October 2018, the World Health Organization conducted a study in selected areas in Metro Manila to identify reasons why parents are not having their children immunized. It showed that fear of vaccines due to Dengvaxia and the lack of time among households as the main reasons for the decline in vaccination rate.

The DOH noted that the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine vaccine confidence project results in 2015 and 2018 showed a big discrepancy in the respondents’ views. The vaccine confidence and the people's belief in its importance have dropped from 93 percent to 32 percent while the number of people believing in the safety and productivity of the vaccines dropped from 82 percent to 21 percent.

The DOH Epidemiology Bureau (EB) reported a total of 4,302 measles cases with 70 deaths starting to January 1 to February 9.

Ages of cases ranged from one month up to 75 years old. Children from one to four years old make up 34 percent of the total cases. It is followed by children who are less than nine months with 27 percent rate.

The DOH EB said 66 percent of the total cases had no history of vaccination against measles while 79 percent of those who died had no history of vaccination.

Regions with high reported cases include the National Capital Region with 1,296 cases and 18 deaths; Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) with 1,086 cases and 25 deaths; Central Luzon with 481 cases and three deaths; Western Visayas with 212 cases and four deaths; and Northern Mindanao with 189 cases and two deaths.

The DOH EB added Eastern Visayas, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan), Calabarzon, Central Visayas and Bicol Regions are places which have shown increasing trend as to reported cases for this week.

The DOH has been conducting vaccination activities against measles such as Outbreak Immunization Responses in several regions.

This was followed by a nationwide Supplemental Immunization Activity (SIA) for six to 59 months old which was conducted in two phases -- in April 2018 in the NCR and Mindanao; and in September 2018 in other parts of Luzon and Visayas.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the SIA campaign achieved coverage of 69 percent during Phase 1 of implementation and 29 percent in Phase 2 despite DOH's efforts.

“I appeal to the public to rebuild your trust and confidence in vaccines that were long proven to be effective, and I am quite sure that all of us sometime in our lives have been recipients of these vaccines which had protected us from various diseases,” he said. (PNA)