MANILA -- The measles outbreak nationwide is almost over, the country's health chief said Tuesday.
"It is probably safer to assume that the number of cases is going down and in many areas but we need to validate our figures, many localities have zero new cases" said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a press conference during the celebration of World Immunization Week in Manila.
Duque, however, said the DOH cannot lift the outbreak status in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon where the highest incidence of measles was recorded.
"We have to be more prudent in saying that measles outbreaks are over in these regions because we still feel that parents must continue to bring their children to the health centers, so it's about giving them more opportunity to bring their unvaccinated children for measles vaccines and other vaccines for diphtheria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, tetanus, etc. which are meant to protect the people's health," he said.
Duque cited that the DOH Epidemiology Bureau (EB) has recorded 31,056 measles cases from January 1 up to April 13 this year compared to only 6,641 for the same period in 2018.
"And that is five times more than the figures in 2018, a number of deaths has reached 415 until week 15 compared to 59 in 2018. With the help of our vaccine heroes we immunized 3.8 million of six to 59 months old children against measles since February this year," he said.
To achieve the 95 percent immunization coverage nationwide, the DOH also launched school-based immunization and immunization for adults.
"The grade schoolers' group from Kinder to grade 6 our target is 8 million, as of April 24, we're done with the eleven percent. When we launched our outbreak response immunization, it was almost the end of the school year, and we'll restart with our massive immunization two after the schools, classes have fully opened, and for the 12 years old and above our coverage is at 42 percent 2.2 million," Duque said.
He added the restored confidence of the people in vaccines brought the downtrend in measles cases.
The latest data from the DOH-EB showed that the highest measles cases at 3,743 were recorded on February 23 this year. The downtrend in the measles cases became significant in the following month as the DOH continued with its massive outbreak response immunization.
"As of week, 15, April 13 of this year, there's only 775 measles cases recorded," Duque said.
While the downtrend in measles cases is good news, United Nations Children's Fund Health and Nutrition Chief Wigdan Madani said the battle against the disease and other vaccine-preventable diseases is not yet over.
"It is important to focus really on the next steps, the unfinished business through immunization, because there is not only measles outbreak, but also polio outbreak in some areas. We ask everyone, the health workers, to support the government initiatives to reach out to every child," she said.
Madani also urged the parents, particularly the mothers, to have their children vaccinated.
"Immunization is also the responsibility of everyone and not just the parents. Through vaccination we protect not only ourselves but also those who cannot be vaccinated yet, those who are still very young," she added.
Duque also thanked all the health workers who were the "vaccine heroes" during the peak of the measles outbreak.
"The DOH is grateful to the unrelenting support of several government agencies, partners, stakeholders, and the parents' cooperation. Through the Pinaigting na Pagbabakuna, we will reach every child," he said. (PNA)