Two leading organizations of pediatric doctors in the Philippines yesterday sounded the alarm on the staggering increase in measles cases and deaths among Filipino children in the past year alone, which has reached crisis proportions as the Department of Health (DOH) has officially announced an outbreak.
They urged their members around the country 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 (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) issued an “urgent plea” to “immunize eligible children against vaccine-preventable diseases” because measles cases are alarming.
“We, as healthcare 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.
The letter cited the latest DOH Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) report showing that out of almost 22,000 cases of clinical measles-rubella reported between January to December 2018, there were 5,120 confirmed measles cases. Among these cases, about 200 deaths were reported, among which 59 were confirmed measles deaths. This reflects a staggering 547% increase in cases compared to the previous year (791 cases and 17 deaths in 2017). Of note, 70% of cases and 88% of deaths due to measles had not been vaccinated. All regions in the country have been affected by this crisis.
PPS and PIDSP reminded pediatricians to ensure up-to-date immunization of their patients as part of the primary responsibility of their individual practices. In particular response to the current measles outbreak, PPS and PIDSP also now recommend pediatricians to administer the first dose of measles vaccine to infants starting at the age of 6 months instead of the usual 9 months as recommended in the country’s Childhood Immunization Schedule. The schedule is determined annually by both societies along with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV).
PPS and PIDSP also urged members to collaborate and coordinate with their respective city, municipal or provincial health offices in organizing community-based regular vaccine mission activities to help administer free measles and other vaccines that are available to qualified children, adolescents and even adults.
“As doctors, we are in a valuable position of helping bring back the Filipino public’s trust in vaccination as a globally accepted and proven medical protocol in saving lives especially that of infants and young children,” said PPS president Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian.
“We should prevent vaccine hesitancy from undermining the decades of progress that we have already achieved in systematically reducing vaccine-preventable deaths and eliminating numerous fatal and debilitating diseases in our country,” she added.
The PPS, established in 1947, is the oldest medical society of physicians caring for newborns, infants, children and adolescents in the Philippines. PIDSP is one of the eleven pediatric subspecialty societies under its umbrella. At present, PPS counts a total of 6,500 members nationwide.
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