SIXTEEN million Filipino children under five years old are targeted to receive measles and polio vaccines in October 2020, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
In a statement, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the measles and polio supplemental immunization campaign will be implemented starting October 26, 2020.
"Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, a high-quality immunization campaign is urgently needed to stop measles and polio transmission and possible outbreaks," said Duque.
"The DOH is conducting the campaign for children under five years old to around 9.4 million children for the measles-rubella vaccine, and to 6.9 million children for the oral polio vaccine," he added.
He said the twin immunization campaign will be rolled out in two phases.
Phase 1 will be conducted from October 26 to November 25 in the Mindanao regions, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Mimaropa and Bicol.
Phase 2 will be conducted in February 2021 in the Visayas regions, National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
In the same statement, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) called on the parents and caregivers of eligible children to allow health workers to administer the vaccines.
"We are at an especially challenging time when immunization for children is being threatened. All of us must do our part in ensuring children in our family are immunized," UNICEF Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines said the two vaccines are highly necessary considering the recent outbreaks declared in the country.
"While measles is highly contagious, it is also a preventable disease. We must not lose the decades of progress we have achieved in immunizing and protecting Filipino children," said WHO representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
“We have to remember that the polio outbreak is not over. So it is critical that we continue this life-saving work of immunizing our children against this debilitating disease," he added.
Measles is a dangerous and fatal disease, with complications that can include severe diarrhea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear and eye complications, encephalitis or swelling of the brain, or permanent disability.
As of August 2020, there were around 3,500 measles cases in the country, with 36 deaths.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and cause paralysis or even death.
The polio outbreak in the Philippines was announced last September 2019, with the confirmation of one new case. The DOH has recorded 16 cases since then. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)