(PNA photo by Gil Calinga)

MANILA – The country may experience a measles outbreak next year with the low number of children who received routine immunizations this year, the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) said Thursday.

In a televised public briefing, VEP Chairperson Dr. Nina Glorianni said there is a need for catch up immunizations to increase the number of fully immunized children in the country.

Children under one year old are considered fully immunized if they have received Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination; three doses of the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine; three doses of the polio vaccine; and a measles vaccine.

“Nung 2020 po ang national coverage nasa about 70 percent. Nagkaroon po ng pandemiya, nung 2021, bumaba po ito ng 56 percent gaya ng mga tao na-lockdown (In 2020, the national coverage is about 70 percent. Then pandemic came, in 2021, it went down to 56 percent due to lockdown) and so on,” Glorianni said.

For the first half of 2022, the national coverage for routine immunization is only at 22 to 25 percent

“So, kahit sabihin natin na ido-doble natin ‘yan by the end of the year which is mahirap na po ay nasa 50 percent pa lang po tayo (So, even if we try to double our efforts by the end of the year, which is difficult, we’ll only achieve 50 percent),” she added.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported measles and rubella (MR) cases nationwide increased by 153 percent from January 1 to September 17 (450 cases) compared to the same period last year (178 cases).

Two deaths due to MR were logged in August and September.

Glorianni urged parents to bring their children to health centers for routine immunizations as BCG, DPT, polio, and measles vaccines are proven effective and safe. (PNA)