(PNA photo by Gil Calinga)

MANILA – The routine immunization coverage among children in the country is only 62.9 percent, lower than data recorded in previous years, a health official said Tuesday.

In a media briefing, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the target coverage for routine immunization among children is 95 percent.

For routine vaccines to be effective, the required doses must be completed following the schedule from the time children are born until they are one year old.

“Kapag kinumpara natin ito sa mga datos natin from the previous years, bumaba po ang ating datos para dito (If we look at our data from the previous years, our data [coverage] for this went down),” she said.

Earlier, the DOH met with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to discuss the country's immunization rate.

“Based on our data, we were able to analyze and ang atin pong pool of susceptibles na mga bata na wala ni isang bakuna o zero dose pa lang sila dito sa ating bansa (our pool of susceptibles who are children with no vaccine, or zero dose in the country) for the past two years of pandemic is almost one million,” Vergeire said.

The number of children who were unable to receive at least one dose of measles vaccine is almost three million.

Consequently, the WHO and UNICEF reminded the DOH to strengthen its routine immunization as there could be an impending outbreak of measles in the country by next year or vaccine preventable diseases with inoculation coverage remains low.

Apart from vaccine hesitancy, Vergeire said lockdowns and restrictions affected the pediatric vaccination for preventable diseases.

She urged parents to have their children complete the routine immunization as protection against diseases especially measles.

“Ang tigdas afflicts less than five years old children. Ang matatanda pwede rin magka-tigdas kung walang bakunang natanggap noong bata pa (Measles afflicts less than five years old children. Adults can also have it if they were not immunized earlier),” she said.

Young children with weak immune systems could suffer from complications like pneumonia and diarrhea due to measles which may lead to hospitalization or death, she added. (PNA)