The number of dengue cases is rising even as the government scrambles to deal with a measles outbreak with 70 confirmed deaths, a Health official said Monday.
In an interview with the ANC news channel, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said recent rains might have caused the rise in dengue cases.
“This is very unusual for this time of the year. The changes in climate have been making dengue a year-long problem… In the past, we’d just wait for the rainy season,” Domingo said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In Central Visayas, he said, there have been 2,132 dengue cases so far, with 18 deaths.
Domingo also said that as of Feb.10, there were 4,300 cases of measles nationwide, with 70 confirmed deaths.
Meanwhile, the chief of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, Dr. Ruby Constantino, dismissed suggestions that the department has been remiss in administering the immunization program, even though they achieved only 35 percent of their vaccination target by the third quarter last year.
She said among those vaccinated, all received the necessary vaccines and were fully immunized.
She also said there was no shortage of vaccines.
“There was no problem with vaccines,” she said in Filipino. “We have all the vaccines needed by the children. And we were able to administer the vaccines to the intended beneficiaries.”
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Constantino said the entire P7.43 billion budgeted for vaccines had been spent, but hesitancy among parents to have their children immunized was a problem.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III appealed to the public to trust in vaccines that have long proven to be effective.
“I am quite sure that all of us sometime in our lives have been recipients of these vaccines which had protected us from various diseases,” he said.
Most of the infected were children. Among those who died, 79 percent had no history of vaccination.
Regions with high reported cases are NCR (1,296 cases and 18 deaths), Calabarzon (1,086 cases and 25 deaths), Central Luzon (481 cases with three deaths), Western Visayas (212 cases and four deaths) and Northern Mindanao (189 cases and five deaths).
In October 2018, the World Health Organization conducted a study in selected areas in Metro Manila to identify reasons parents were not bringing their children for immunization. The top reasons were the fear due to the Dengvaxia scare and the lack of time among households.
Two leading organizations of pediatric doctors sounded the alarm over the measles outbreak and urged their members to spearhead vaccination efforts and awareness activities in partnership with local government units and government health practitioners.
In a joint letter to its member-doctors and the DOH, the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines issued an urgent plea to immunize eligible children against vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We, as health care providers, have the responsibility of educating our patients about the importance of disease prevention through immunization. We should take every opportunity to convince and reinforce the message that the vaccines available to prevent diseases are safe and highly effective, and that vaccination remains the main intervention in reducing morbidity and mortality against infectious diseases,” said PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim.
In the House of Representatives, lawmakers approved on second reading House Bill 9068, which proposes to expand the list of vaccine-preventable diseases covered by the mandatory basic immunization for all infants and children.
The bill, principally authored by Reps. Cristal Bagatsing of Manila, Angelina Tan of Quezon, and Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur, also provides for a system to determine other types of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The bill would amend the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011 to expand its coverage to include rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis, PCV 13, human papillomavirus and other types of vaccine-preventable diseases that the Health secretary may recommend.
At present, the list of vaccine-preventable diseases only covers tuberculosis; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; poliomyelitis; measles; mumps; rubella or German measles; and hepatitis-B; and H. influenza type-B (HIB).