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DOH outlay cut by P14 billion amid measles outbreak

As it scrambles to deal with an outbreak of measles, the Department of Health is expected to see P14 billion cut from its budget for 2019, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Friday.

In an interview on radio dzMM, Duque said the Budget department had first sought a P31-billion cut because the DOH still had many pending projects, but this was lowered to P14 billion.

“We can’t blame DBM for making the budget cut because the condition is to clean up all those pending projects before adding to the budget,” he said.

The department came under scrutiny last year after Duque found that only 270 of the 5,700 barangay health stations had been completed under the P8.1-billion Barangay Health Station project.

A DOH epidemiologist said Friday measles cases in Central Luzon spiked significantly as 96 percent of the affected children in the region were unvaccinated.

“More children suffered the disease because their parents refused to bring them to health centers to avail of free vaccines,” Dr. Jesse Fantone, head of DOH’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit said.

Data from the DOH-RESU showed a total of 437 cases and six deaths reported in Central Luzon from January 1 to February 7 this year, compared to only 32 cases with no death during the same period last year.

Of the seven provinces in Central Luzon, Bulacan has the highest number of measles cases with 144, followed by Pampanga with 136; Tarlac with 89; Bataan with 27; Zambales with 23; and Nueva Ecija with 18. The province of Aurora had no measles case.

Of the six deaths, three were from Pampanga and one each in Bulacan, Bataan, and Zambales.

Regional health officials declared a measles outbreak in Central Luzon on Thursday.

Fantone said the Dengvaxia scare is a minor reason parents have failed to participate in the immunization program. 

The health official said that the DOH has been conducting an outbreak response immunization in areas in the region where clustering of measles cases were reported since April last year.

He said this is aside from the measles routine immunization being conducted every Wednesday in all health centers of the region.

“I am appealing to parents to have their children vaccinated against this infectious disease,” Fantone said, adding that the DOH regional office has a sufficient supply of vaccines that can be had for free.

He asked the local government officials and other stakeholders to help them in this campaign.

“This measles outbreak can be controlled. Let us stand to protect our children. Please help us inform the public that measles can be prevented through vaccination,” he added.

Babies from six to eight months old are immunized with the measles and rubella vaccine, while children nine months to four years old are given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

Measles is a highly infectious and communicable disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include high fever, cough, conjunctivitis and colds.

If not properly managed, it can lead to complications, such as blindness, encephalitis, pneumonia, diarrhea and even death.

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday blamed Public Attorney Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda Acosta’s statements on Dengvaxia for the outbreak of measles.

“Persida Acosta’s lies have slain children,” Hontiveros said.

“She stood at the gravesides of poor dead children to wage a vicious campaign of disinformation, pseudo-science and politically motivated witch-hunts. Her lies and hysterics contributed directly to the erosion of public trust in our vaccination programs,” she added.

She accused Acosta of scaremongering and conducting politically motivated investigations on the Dengvaxia issue.

READ: PH-wide outbreak feared

She said the faith in the advice of vaccine experts and doctors declined because of Acosta’s criticisms on the vaccine.

“When there was an opportunity to clarify, she instead created confusion. A responsible public servant would have called for calm. Instead she sowed panic,” Hontiveros said.

The Palace has defended Acosta against such accusations, saying she was only doing her job in representing the families of children who died after they were administered the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Dr. Ferdinand de Guzman, a spokesman for the San Lazaro Hospital, said they expect the number of measles patients to increase in the following days.

He said the number of measles cases at the San Lazaro Hospital in early 2019 has increased by 300 to 400 percent compared to the number of such cases reported for the same period last year. With PNA

READ: Measles outbreak in Metro Manila, Luzon

Topics: Francisco Duque , Department of Health , Barangay Health Station , Persida Rueda Acosta , Measles , Dengvaxia , Vaccine
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