THE whole discussion on whether vaccination of students will be made a requirement before enrollment has gone silent.
It shouldn’t. Not when the number of children dying of measles continues to rise.
Health officials said last week that measles claimed its ninth fatality in Central Visayas. The latest fatality was an 11-month-old baby girl from Cebu City. “Baby Grace” became the third measles fatality in Cebu City this year and the ninth in the entire region. She died of multiple organ failure, following a measles infection, Jane Michelle Raagas of the Department of Health (DOH) 7 said.
The latest tally of deaths due to measles: Three in Cebu City and one each in Lapu-Lapu, Moalboal, San Fernando, Pinamungajan, Consolacion, and Carcar City.
The Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit 7 recorded from Jan. 1 to March 12 this year a total of 898 measles-rubella cases in Central Visayas.
The situation has DOH hospitals and facilities under a Code White that means all resources should respond to measles emergencies and a massive vaccination drive will be done for children aged six to 59 months.
The measles outbreak in the country was blamed on government’s neglect of its immunization program. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that the low trust in the government’s immunization drive may be linked to the controversy over the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The Dengvaxia controversy arose when the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said in November 2017 that Dengvaxia posed a risk to people who had not been previously exposed to dengue. The government’s response was mostly political–a blame game to let present and past officials answer for the mess–and less about changing procedures in its vaccination drive. The result was parents became wary of having their children immunized.
In the US, the vaccination program was boosted when a court dismissed a petition to stop the local government’s order barring children without their measles vaccination from school. The petition for injunction was filed by parents of 42 children affected by the ban. They wanted to be excluded from the school order.
The court decision against the petition was seen as reflective of a growing public pushback against people who do not have their children immunized. There are even proposals to allow teenagers to have themselves vaccinated without parental consent.
All these point to the importance of continuing the discussion on the plan to require vaccination children before enrollment.
There are pros and cons to the idea. Cebu Provincial Health Office Chief Rene Catan is one of those opposed to it as he has said, “Getting an elementary education is a right, so is the right to health. This cannot be imposed. People should be given a choice. We must instead strengthen our vaccination program in the community rather than resort to iron-hand tactics.” Then there are other officials who think the situation demanded urgent action.
The discussion must continue so advantage can be weighed against disadvantage, and a decision made.