THE Davao City Health Office (CHO) has immunized 55,021 children with measles vaccine starting November to January 23.

But this is only less than 50 percent or 36 percent of the 151,468 target.

Davao City Health Officer Dr. Josephine Villafuerte said the Outbreak Response Immunization (ORI) of the City started last November to December 2017 which covered 15,071 cases but the office doubled its efforts to immunize a total of 39,950 children last January 16 to 23, 2018 amid growing measles cases.

Villafuerte said ORI targets children aged six to 59 months old as they are the most vulnerable. This is a larger age group compared to 9 months to 23 months old that they vaccinate in routine measles vaccination in health centers every Wednesday.

CHO ORI focal person Julinda Acosta said the ORI is different from the routine immunization or catch up immunization because they only conduct ORI when there is a confirmed case.

They also included in their ORI children those who are six months old and those who had previous immunization status. After one month, those who had been injected with a vaccine are recommended to get another shot.

So those who had measles vaccine when they were nine months old and are now 11 months also availed the ORI.

The six months old who were vaccinated will have another vaccine shot when they reach nine months. Two vaccine shots are recommended for the children.

The health officials added they have recognized that the children belonging to the six months age group have low immunization statues since previously their program originally included children 9 months old and above.

Villafuerte added that they eye to increase measles coverage to 95 percent through decreasing the number of the missed opportunities and enhanced defaulter training.

In January there were four deaths recorded due to measles. These included children below nine months.

In the data gathered by the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) covering November 2, 2017 to January 11, 2018, there were 119 children (out of 224) with suspected cases were not immunized. The identified cause was the mother was busy.

Villafuerte said children below five years old composed the huge chunk of suspected cases.

She said the DOH RESU recorded 252 suspected cases from November 2017 to January 23, 2018, with 11 confirmed deaths, and 16 confirmed cases.

She said that the last outbreak in the city was in 2013. In 2016, there were no recorded cases in the city.

Outbreak

Villafuerte said the influx of people from other neighboring areas is seen as one of the possible reasons of an outbreak.

"Davao City is a center for trade and commerce in Mindanao, thus the influx of people coming from the different parts of the Philippines made it vulnerable from disease transmission," she said.

She added that highly-populated areas like District-c Barangay 23-C, where the first case of measles was recorded are among the areas where airborne transmission easily happen.

She also said that families living in limited space is among the factors identified for the easy spread of the disease.

Villafuerte said that aside from the immunization they are also partnering with barangays, pediatricians and government agencies to quickly report to the CHO or nearest health centers children who will manifest symptoms of measles such as fever, cough, colds and the redness of the eye.

She said that even one case of measles is deadly as it can lead to outbreak.

It is a highly contagious viral disease that can be transmitted through droplets from nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.

Villafuerte, in the same press conference, urged the parents of children who were not able to avail of the vaccine to voluntarily go to their health offices.

She added that they have no shortage of free vaccines.

She also dispelled fears that the vaccine is not safe due to the looming controversy of Dengvaxia.

Acosta said that this vaccine had been used in the country for 50 years.