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Monday, February 18, 2019
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Editorial: Immunize against measles

PREVENTION BETTER THAN CURE. Vaccines are very safe and effective protection against communicable diseases, declare health experts urging parents and guardians to have some two million children vaccinated against measles. (SunStar file foto)

GET your child vaccinated now against measles.

That is the urgent message that needs to be circulated by all stakeholders as the Department of Health (DOH) declared this week that an outbreak of measles has hit the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Central Visayas and Western Visayas.

In a Feb. 7 press conference, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III cited validated data in declaring this health emergency: the drastic increase in cases of measles breaking out among children in these five regions, resulting in death in some cases, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 6 this year, as compared to the number of cases recorded during the same period in 2018.

“As of Jan. 26, Central Visayas had 71 cases with one death. This is a 3,450 percent increase compared to two cases recorded in 2018,” reported SunStar Philippines on Feb. 7.

Highly communicable—transmitted by sneezing, coughing, and close contact—measles “causes fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Complications can include ear infection, diarrhea, pneumonia, brain damage, and death.”

This is according to the official website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is the federal agency charged with health promotion, prevention, and preparedness in the United States.

One can be protected from measles by getting the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, which offers “very safe” and “effective” protection against these diseases, according to the CDC.

Mumps can result in “complications,” such as “swelling of the testicles or ovaries, deafness, inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis/meningitis) and, rarely, death.”

The CDC website also indicated that a pregnant woman acquiring rubella is at risk of a miscarriage. Her baby may be born with serious birth defects.

“Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella,” reports the CDC.

Supporting the DOH call for measles immunization is a civic responsibility, requiring every citizen and entity to assist the government in disseminating information about the need for vaccination to protect children and prevent needless suffering and death.

In a YouTube video posted on Feb. 7, Vice President Leni Robredo pointed out that vaccination against measles is needed for more than two million children who remain unvaccinated.

The DOH targets 90 percent of the population immunized to create “herd immunity,” which means that even the unvaccinated are protected from a communicable disease.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that the DOH includes adults in the free measles immunization although the current measles cases involve children younger than five years old.

Officials of the international nongovernment organization Save the Children Philippines said the First 1,000 Days law enacted last November mandates national agencies and local government units to ensure that children’s health is safeguarded through proper nutrition and care, including complete immunization, for a child’s survival in the first 1,000 days of his or her life, which covers the first two years.

The CDC recommends that “children should get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at four through six years of age.” It also recommends that adolescents and adults are up to date on their MMR vaccination.

As crucial as the immunization against measles is the education of the public on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

DOH officials said the measles outbreak is not caused by a new strain of measles but by the rising number of unvaccinated children. Following the controversy over the Dengvaxia immunization, the DOH recorded a significant drop in measles immunization nationwide.


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