Councilor pushes vaccination before enrolment

A DAVAO City councilor, who is currently pushing for the mandatory immunization ordinance, also wants it to be required during school enrolment.

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, committee head on health, said Tuesday, November 19, that she will include it as one of the provisions of her ordinance requiring parents to have their children immunized through vaccination.

Villafuerte's proposal came after the Department of Health (DOH) declared a "poliovirus outbreak" in the country, wherein the sample of the poliovirus type 2 virus was detected in the Davao River near the Bolton Bridge.

Following the outbreak, the Davao City Government through the City Health Office (CHO), together with DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO), immediately launched the Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio, a citywide mass vaccination that will give children ages zero to 59 months old oral polio vaccine type 2 (OPV2) for three rounds.

The first round, conducted from October 14 to 27, got a 99.48 percent immunization coverage or a total of 185,901 children were immunized, according to CHO. A total 186,864 children are projected to be immunized, based on the 2019 data of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Villafuerte said while it is good that the city was able to hit a coverage rate, which already guarantees the protection of the children from the possible virus infection. She said, however, that it must be sustained since children should intake the remaining two dosage of the OPV2.

She said her proposed ordinance, requiring children to be vaccinated before being admitted in schools, is one way of helping the city attain its high immunization coverage.

"Kaya ngayon hinihingi namin ang support ng DepEd (Department of Education) on this matter, na maging requirement siya during enrolment kasi mapipilitan talaga ang mga mothers na mag-comply (We are currently seeking support from DepEd on this matter, that mandatory immunization will be a requirement during enrollment because the parents will be forced to have their children immunized)," Villafuerte told reporters on Tuesday right after the regular session at the City Council.

The councilor said in her proposal that standby health personnel will be deployed in schools during the enrolment.

"Kapag nalaman, during the enrollment period, na di kumpleto sa vaccine ang bata, dun na siya mabigyan ng bakuna (Once the children will be discovered during the enrolment that he or she is incomplete of vaccine, he or she will be given immediately during the enrolment)," Villafuerte said.

The councilor, however, clarified that the immunization will not be limited to polio. She said MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) vaccines will also be given.

Her item, currently under first reading, is still under committee hearing.

Despite being mandatory, Villafuerte said she is not going to put a penalty clause for parents refusing to have their children vaccinated.

"If you punish someone whose children gets sick, it's like already adding insult to injury," the councilor said, adding the proposed ordinance is meant to convince parents to have their children immunized.

With the recent high polio immunization coverage, the councilor said it is "highly achievable" to also have this in the MMR and DPT, which usually meets a 70-percent coverage rate.

"Nakita natin na (We have seen that) if we really unite and involve everybody in the community, we can achieve a high immunization rate," she said.

She also said the coming rounds would be able to the lessen the refusal number, brought about by different factors such as religious belief and fear of vaccination brought about the Dengvaxia scare.

DepEd, in February 2019, proposed the "no vaccination, no enrollment" policy due to the rising number of measles cases in the country.

However, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones clarified that "the proposed policy must take into consideration the human rights of learners, especially their access to quality basic education."

The proposal was met with criticisms.


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