EDITORIAL: Fighting the deadly measles outbreak

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Just recently, health authorities confirmed that 136 people died due to measles outbreak. With these numbers, it surpassed more than half of the reported death toll of 202 in 2018.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed the need to vaccinate around 10 million children in the country aged between 6 months to 5 years old is highly critical now. With this, the government is still convincing, encouraging the parents of these babies and children to have them protected by having them inoculated with vaccines against measles. But their fear on Dengvaxia in 2016 stopped them from getting their children immunized.

And here comes the measles outbreak taking the lives of these children who are highly susceptible to complications that could easily pull them to the grave. The challenge is overwhelming and the news is all over the world. And the DOH has to take its bold move to be on the front lines, knocking house to house, and persuading the parents of these babies and children.

While the DOH scrambles to avert the further spread of the disease, oppositions aggressively pinpointed PAO Chief Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta as the reason why parents don’t allow their children to have them immunized. But who are winning the battle? Nobody.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in its Measles Outbreak Flash Update No. 1 released last February 15, measles outbreak occurred in the Regions III, IVA, IVB, VI, VII, VIII and the National Capital Region.

The DOH further confirmed that it met with various stakeholders and to activate its Incident Command System to implement that nationwide immunization campaign targeting 95% of the estimated 2.6 million children under 5 years who have not yet been vaccinated.

In Puerto Princesa City, the City Health Office urged parents to have their kids immunized so as to protect them from the disease.

Measles is considered to be a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus which can be spread through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.

Complications include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis – or the swelling of the brain – which may lead to death.

The Dengvaxia score has made the parents generalize all vaccines as, at best, doubtful, and at worst, deadly. They can’t be totally faulted for thinking as such because of the Dengvaxia-makers own report about the side effects, the vaccine’s rushed up purchase and vaccination and the deaths supposedly caused by the anti-dengue vaccine. No one would ever take the risk because of the threat against their sons or daughters. And rightly so.

The DOH should have launched a massive information campaign enlightening everyone that Dengvaxia is Dengvaxia and other vaccines such as those against measles have been proven to be safe and effective. The health department was remiss in this front.

What we need right now is education and more aggressive campaign from the DOH, including the provincial and local government units in cooperation with non-government organizations and private sector, spearhead immunization campaigns in the grassroots level even house-to-house campaign to convince the parents to let their children be inoculated.

Prevention is still the best method against this deadly disease.

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