THE Department of Health (DOH) urged the public to avail themselves of the government’s P3.4-billion vaccination program this year to combat preventable diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhea.
In a press conference at Radisson Blu yesterday, DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said it is sad to note that while pneumonia, diarrhea and meningitis can be prevented through vaccines, millions of children around the world still die from them.
According to Tayag, the Philipine Government is fighting vaccine-preventable diseases through the DOH’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).
“Please take note, vaccines do not save life. Vaccination saves life. We buy P3.4 billion worth of vaccines this year because we want total protection of children from these diseases. The DOH loves all the chidren in the country and their parents must do their part to save them from diseases,” Tayag said.
Tayag said that, last year, the government allocated P1.9 billion for vaccines and
found it cost-effective because children receiving at least a basic set of vaccination during infancy are able to lead healthy and productive lives.
With Tayag during the press conference were Dr. Jonathan Lim, chair of the 4th Asian Vaccine Congress (Asvac 2013), which is being held at Radisson Blu from June 12-14; Dr. Lulu Bravo, president of the Immunization Partners in Asia Pacific (IPAP); Dr. Jacob John, consultant/virologist of the World Health Organization (WHO); and Maricel de Quiros Castro, WHO technical officer.
Bravo said that to prevent millions of deaths from preventable diseases, 194 of WHO-member states have endorsed in 2011 the 2020 Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) during the World Health Assembly in May 2012.
She said the GVAP is a framework to prevent 24.6 and 25.4 million deaths by the end of the decade. This can be achieved by making sure that there is more equitable access to existing vaccines for all people in the communities.
With the approval of the World Health Assembly, the GAVP will then be adapted for implementation at the regional and country levels, Bravo said.
On the other hand, Lim said WHO found out that vaccination is one of the most effective interventions for public health because they protect the vulnerable population on a large scale for a longer term.
“By vaccinating your targeted population, you build up their capability to develop their immunological defense against diseases. You let them fight off diseases on their own,” Lim said.
New vaccines are being introduced in the government’s EPI, such as the Rotavirus vaccine and the Pneumoccoal Conjugate Vaccine.
Lim said the EPI was initially aimed to eliminate tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles. But eventually, the program was expanded to include rotavirus last year, making the Philippines the first country to immunize against the disease in Southeast Asia.
This initially benefited some 700,000 infants from the 5.2 million families identified as poorest of the poor by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) through the National Household Targeting System.
“We may be setting a trend here by being the first to vaccinate our children against rotavirus in this region. Other nations may follow,” said Bravo.