BAGUIO CITY-- The City Health Services Office (HSO) is calling on the public to bring their children, ages six to 59 months old, to any health center in the city or wait for health workers doing house-to-house free vaccination that started on Feb. 18.

Anti-measles vaccines will be given to children six to 59 months old while anti-Japanese encephalitis to children nine to 59 months. Oral Polio vaccines as well as oral Vitamin A supplementation will also be given together with the three vaccines for those who have yet to get them.

“To all constituents in the barangays, the community, bring your children to the health centers. If you cannot bring them then they will come to your barangays. There will be schedules to follow kung saan sila o di kaya pwede rin naman mag antay sa bahay bahay ninyo (there will be schedules when health workers will go to the communities and if they cannot go to the fixed stations, they can just wait in their houses and the workers will go to them),” said Dr. Rowena Galpo, city health officer at the sidelines of the executive-legislative meeting on Monday.

She said health centers in the city will entertain clients going for vaccination any day and will no longer implement a once a week vaccination schedule.

“They can visit our health centers any day and they can avail of the vaccines,” she said.

“All of these have been given in the past, they are proven to be safe and effective. This is not new so there is nothing to be afraid of,” Galpo said.

Galpo said the move is expected to increase immunization coverage in the city.

Measles situation

Galpo said as of February 15, there are 81 measles cases reported by the seven sentinel hospitals in Baguio, which are considered as the disease reporting units (DRU) in the city.

On February 8, there were only 59 measles cases recorded.

“No death. Zero death unlike in other regions that’s why we have to do something to control the increasing trend, and it is nationwide,” Galpo said, adding the local health office has yet to declare a measles outbreak.

She said people travel to Baguio and they could bring with them the virus, which makes the city residents susceptible.

“Our mobility, people from Metro Manila where there is an outbreak, they can carry the virus and they can bring it here,” Galpo said.

She, however, clarified that the increasing trend in cases is attributed to the low immunization coverage in the city, which was noted in the last two years.

“HSO used to report an immunization coverage of 90 to 95 percent but this dropped to 80 to 85 percent in the last two years,” the doctor said.

“Scientifically, if the herd immunity is high, it means such number is protected if the virus enters a community. We have to have a herd immunity of 95 percent and we need to reach the most vulnerable- the children, who are more susceptible,” Galpo added.

She said people ages 0 to 20 years old can still be vaccinated and develop immunity from the virus but the Department of Health program is focusing on the babies and toddlers because they are more vulnerable and if vaccinated can still develop immunity.

Japanese encephalitis with measles

HSO medical officer Dr. Ma. Alice Torres said from 2016 to 2018, there have been 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in Baguio.

JE is a mosquito borne viral infection transmitted through the bite of an infected female culex mosquito. It is colored brown and breeds locally in rice fields, ground pools, water hyacinth ponds, slow stream, irrigation, ditches and canals. It bites just after sunset and just before sunrise.

Torres said around 75 percent of the cases are among children 0 to 14 years old.

“It is a dangerous disease which can cause death in about 30 percent of cases and survivors may have long terms abnormal brain functions. However, it is a highly preventable disease,” Torres said.

"We may have all the vaccines available but if our clients do not come or if we are not able to give them the vaccines, these vaccines will be useless. So, let us help each other to promote not only vaccination but all of the health services that we offer," she added. (PNA)