Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III has sought the help of various stakeholders in improving the vaccination rate for children, which was at 70 percent in 2016, far from the health department’s target.

“Today, our vaccination coverage for fully immunized children or FIC is far from the 95 percent target and, in fact, has fallen to 70 percent as of 2016, according to the Family Health Survey Information System,” Duque said during the 18th Philippine National Immunization Conference held at the Crimson Hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa Thursday.

“This is not acceptable,” he said, considering that the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for immunization has increased over the years.

Addressing the physicians, nurses, midwives and other health care practitioners attending the conference, Duque said, “So you help us. Under this administration of President (Rodrigo) Duterte and under this new administration of the DOH, under my stewardship, I need your support. I need you to rally behind (DOH) for a more aggressive pursuit of our national immunization program.”

The health chief said his department has to aggressively deliver vaccines to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, such as island municipalities.

“We also have to get complementary vaccinators to do the job,” he added.

Duque also cited the important role that local government units (LGUs) play since vaccinators work with them in reaching every “purok” (area).

DOH spokesperson, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, likewise noted that LGUs provide the resources needed to carry out the vaccination program.

Another challenge, Lee Suy said, is that with the increase in population comes the increase in the program’s coverage.

“At alam naman natin na ang population ng health workers ay di naman tumataas (And we all know that the population of health workers is not increasing),” he added.

He further said that the National Immunization Program not only covers children but adults and senior citizens, as well.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sally Gatchalian, president of Philippine Pediatric Society, expressed their support for the government’s health programs, including its immunization program.

Gatchalian said the private sector usually covers only 10 percent to 15 percent of the total number of children to be vaccinated.

“We have the childhood immunization schedule that we actually follow, because it has antigens that are not included in the National Immunization Program. But at least the government has basic vaccines that are needed by children, particularly those less than one year of age,” she added.

Dr. Lulu Bravo, a pediatrics specialist and professor of pediatric infectious and tropical diseases at the University of the Philippines (UP) and executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), said more than 8 million children in the country who are less than five years old, had benefited from vaccination.

The event was spearheaded by the PFV, in partnership with the UP – Philippine General Hospital’s Infectious and Tropical Diseases in Pediatrics (INTROP). (PNA)

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