By Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco, February 12 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to CNN Philippines

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Monday appealed to the public to “rebuild your trust and confidence in vaccines” as the country reels from a deadly measles outbreak that had claimed the lives of at least 70 persons in the past weeks.

The health chief admitted that vaccine hesitancy, or the reluctance or even outright refusal, of parents to have their children vaccinated, as one of the main reasons for the recent measles outbreak in some regions of the country.

Duque said that the causes of measles outbreak involved a number of factors or elements. The fear stirred by the Dengvaxia vaccine mess also contributed to the fear of parents.

The Department of Health (DOH) said that the loss of public confidence and trust in vaccines in the immunization program brought about by the Dengvaxia controversy has been documented as one of many factors that contributed to vaccine hesitancy in the country.

This refers to mothers who became hesitant to have their children vaccinated with vaccines that were long proven to be effective, he added.

“And I am quite sure that all of us sometime in our lives have been recipients of these vaccines which had protected us from various diseases,” Duque added.

Validated data from different regions of the country by the Epidemiology Bureau of the health department revealed that from January 1 to February 9 alone this year, a total of 4,302 measles cases have been reported, with 70 deaths.

Ages of cases ranged from one month up to 75 years old with one to four years old (34 percent) followed by less than nine months old (27 percent) as the most affected age groups. Sixty-six percent of them had no history of vaccination against measles.

Of the total deaths, ages ranged from one month to 31 years old. Notably, 79 percent of those who died had no history of vaccination.

Regions with high reported cases are in the National Capital Region, or NCR, (1,296 cases and 18 deaths) Region 6A (1,086 cases and 25 deaths), Central Luzon (481 cases with three deaths), Western Visayas (212 cases and four deaths) and Northern Mindanao (189 cases and five deaths).

Eastern Visayas, Region 6B, Region 6A, Central Visayas and Bicol are regions that have shown increasing trend as to reported cases for this week.

In October 2018, the World Health Organization conducted a study in selected areas in Metro Manila to identify reasons for not bringing their children for immunization. The top reasons are the following: fear due to Dengvaxia, and the lack of time among households.

Moreover, results of the vaccine confidence project in 2015 against 2018 by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the respondents’ views that vaccines are important decreased from 93 percent to 32 percent; safe and effective from 82 percent down to 21 percent and vaccine confidence dropped from 93 to 32 percent, respectively.

The DOH has been conducting vaccination activities against measles such as Outbreak Immunization Responses in several regions. This was followed by a nationwide Supplemental Immunization Activity (SIA) for six to 59 months old, which was conducted in two phases—in April 2018 (NCR and Mindanao) and in September 2018 (other parts of Luzon and the Visayas).

Despite the efforts of health workers, the SIA campaign had achieved a coverage of 69 percent during Phase 1 of implementation and 29 percent in Phase 2.