MEASLES claimed another child’s life in Cebu, as the Provincial Health Office (PHO) bares plans to buy more anti-measles vaccines.
In an interview Friday, Feb. 8, PHO chief Dr. Rene Catan said that because an epidemic—the widespread occurrence of an infectious disease like measles—is considered a disaster, the Province may use its disaster fund to address it.
“We can charge it to the disaster fund if the Provincial Board authorizes it. We will recommend the purchase of more vaccines and make sure that we have the capability to manage pulmonary and neurological complications,” he said.
Catan lamented that a measles outbreak would have been prevented with vaccination, if not for the stigma brought about by the Dengvaxia controversy.
But despite the Dengvaxia scare, Catan stressed that the Capitol has remained aggressive in its vaccination campaign, especially in schools.
“The people who are most vulnerable are the schoolchildren. That’s why the vaccination program continues, spearheaded by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Education. Pero naka-anticipate na ta ani kay even provinces, naa nay fear sa Dengvaxia,” he added.
PHO records show that as of Feb. 8, there were no reported deaths due to measles in the province so far this year.
But DOH 7, particularly the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu), confirmed that a second fatality in the province this year due to measles was reported to them earlier this week.
The child, who is under five years old, reportedly died in Cebu province last month.
The child was confirmed by the DOH to have died of measles only recently, said Resu 7 nurse III Frances Marsha Navarro.
DOH 7 officials would not disclose where the child was from and where he or she died, but an official of a public hospital in Cebu who requested anonymity said the child was a resident of Carcar City at the time of death.
The child was the fourth measles fatality since the outbreak in Central Visayas started in August last year.
All four deaths were recorded in Cebu province, according to DOH 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas, correcting an earlier Resu report that said two of the deaths were recorded in Cebu City.
DOH 7 said 96 have been treated for measles since Jan. 1 this year. Of the number, at least 11 cases were reported in the province.
Three measles cases were recorded in Pinamungahan, while the town of Poro and Toledo City each recorded two cases.
The PHO also recorded one measles case each in the towns of Tuburan, Borbon, Sogod and Catmon.
“There’s a looming epidemic happening, but it’s not too late. The virus itself is self-limiting. The problem is that instead of prevention, our response will be more expensive because we will start admitting people, treating the complications, and it will cost us a lot. It would have been cheaper if the vaccines we distributed were used. An epidemic would have been prevented,” Catan said.
Earlier, the DOH blamed the measles outbreak in some parts of the country on the refusal of some parents to have their children vaccinated.
In an interview, Bernadas cited the recent Dengvaxia scare as one of the reasons some parents won’t allow their children to be vaccinated.
The Dengvaxia scare began when pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur announced in 2017 that its dengue vaccine could be risky for people who were not previously infected with dengue.
This led to a temporary suspension of the dengue vaccination program by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III after the National Government vaccinated 800,000 students, including those in Cebu.
Though there is no measles outbreak and no death due to measles in Cebu City, Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos said they will intensify the information dissemination on the importance of the anti-measles vaccine in the wake of the Dengvaxia scare.
“Data showed that we have fewer parents who submitted their children for vaccination in the health centers because they were afraid. They thought that all vaccines are similar,” De los Santos, the deputy mayor for health, said.
City Health Department Chief Dr. Alma Corpin issued a memorandum to all health centers, saying that apart from the regular immunization, babies should also be given supplemental measles immunization at six months.
This is in addition to their one dose on the ninth month and another dose at one year old. (RTF, JKV, RVC)