GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Anticipating tough days ahead due to the Dengvaxia controversy, the Department of Health (DOH) is considering this early to extend the ongoing mass supplemental immunization activity for measles and rubella in the entire Mindanao.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a press conference here on Wednesday afternoon that he has ordered their regional offices in Mindanao to prepare for the extension of the initiative to ensure that they cover all eligible children.
“My order is that, we should extend the period of the supplemental immunization activity because of the given obstacles brought about by the fear of Dengvaxia,” he said.
Duque personally led the formal launching of the Mindanao-wide immunization activity for measles and rubella that will run until June 8.
The agency is targeting to cover a total of 2.7 million eligible children aged six months to below five years-old within Mindanao’s six regions during the month-long campaign.
Davao region topped the list with 588,000 followed by Soccsksargen with 506,600.
Duque, however, admitted that the Dengvaxia controversy has “tainted the integrity of the DOH’s entire immunization program.”
He said they expect some parents to resist and not allow their children to undergo immunization due to fears that the effects would be similar to the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which had been blamed over a number of deaths in Metro Manila and Luzon.
DOH had not conducted any mass immunization activity for dengue in Mindanao.
Citing their experience in the National Capital Region, he said the participation rate was considerably low in the first two weeks of the measles-rubella immunization activity after it was launched last April 25.
He said they only managed a performance rate of 3 percent or immunized around 42,000 children out of their 1.4 million target.
During a random survey conducted by their vaccinators, Duque said 2,000 out of 3,000 respondents did not allow their children to undergo vaccination due to the Dengvaxia controversy.
Because of this, he challenged local health workers to “step up and level up” their information and education activities on measles and rubella to ensure better results.
Duque said it is important for them to understand that the vaccines being used for measles and rubella have long been proven to be safe.
He stressed that the risks of potential complications of the disease are dangerous and could lead to deaths.
In Region, the DOH already recorded a total of 767 suspected measles cases since January, with 110 already confirmed.
It recorded a total of nine deaths, all involving children who were not immunized.
Duque said the number of measles deaths in the region represent 60 percent of the total 16 fatalities recorded in the entire country.
“This should not have happened because measles is a vaccine-preventable disease. We have enough supplies of vaccines and deployed substantial vaccinators so there’s no reason for our children not to get vaccinated,” he added. (PNA)
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