Get children vaccinated

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As I discussed in my previous column, health is definitely wealth among us Filipinos. With the surging prices of goods and basic needs in the market, most Filipino families cannot afford additional tolls on their hard-earned finances, especially those that are related to health and especially those that are preventable.

“There is no other way to protect our children from getting measles other than having them immunized.

Just recently, however, the Department of Health (DoH) declared a measles outbreak in both Metro Manila and Central Luzon after tallying 861 suspected cases of the disease on 2 February. The declaration of the outbreak, according to the DoH, is meant to halt the spread of the virus. A day after the declarations over NCR and Central Luzon broke, another declaration covering Eastern Visayas was announced.

Measles is locally known as tigdas. The DoH confirmed that of the above-mentioned measles cases, 55 deaths were recorded as early as January 2019, with most cases coming from Manila, Caloocan, Malabon, Marikina, Navotas, Pasay, Pasig, Parañaque and Taguig. Central Luzon’s local DoH, meanwhile, recorded more than 400 cases of measles in the region in the same period.

According to Philippine Red Cross (PRC), measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by Paramyxovirus, which normally grows in the cells that line the back of the throat and lungs. The virus easily spreads from person-to-person through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact. Its symptoms range from having a high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and rashes that could last for about a week.

The PRC has also said the best way to prevent measles from spreading is through immunization. We’re lucky enough that in the Philippines, we have the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) which was first introduced by the government in 1979. The EPI aims to make an infant immune against seven vaccine-preventable diseases, which include measles.

Despite this free service, fewer parents have been availing themselves of immunization for their children. The heightened anxiety wrought by the Dengvaxia scare from last year has paved the way for the growing distrust of most Filipinos in immunization and vaccination. Parents now tend to do away with this important facet of early child development, making their children vulnerable to diseases like measles.

While the fear of all parents of vaccines (in view of recent events) is understandable, there is no other way to protect our children from getting measles other than having them immunized. It has been a common, accepted practice from the past and we have an entire generation of vaccinated children ably contributing to the country. When I was still presidential spokesman, I repeatedly urged the public to recall that not all vaccines are like Dengvaxia; the measles vaccine in particular has been used for decades without significant issues. Even Dengvaxia is still being scrutinized, DoH officials told senators at a hearing last month that they have yet to confirm a death directly caused by Dengvaxia.

After the measles outbreak was made known, the DoH and other local competent health practitioners recommended the immediate immunization of children who have yet to receive the measles vaccine. Let’s heed this call — literally listen to our doctors — and help in the prevention of the spread of this deadly but preventable disease.

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