THE Rural Health Unit (RHU) of Balamban town, Cebu extends its immunization activities until March 12, 2021, after not meeting the target number of children needed to be immunized during Phase 2 of Measles Rubella-Oral Polio Vaccine Supplemental Immunization Activity (MR-OPV SIA) in February.
The Balamban RHU aimed to immunize at least 95 percent of the children ages zero to 59 months in the municipality, following the mandate of the Department of Health (DOH).
The town records show 8,306 children eligible for the measles-rubella vaccines and 9,810 children eligible for the oral polio vaccines.
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Nurse Grezel B. Bacaron of Balamban RHU said that to be able to get the herd immunity against measles and polio for all children ages zero to 59 months, they need to immunize at least 95 percent of the eligible children.
Within five weeks, 6,688 children were vaccinated for measles-rubella, which is 81 percent of the target population. Also, within the first week of March, the Balamban RHU recorded 7,867 children to have been vaccinated against polio, which is 80 percent of the target population.
However, since the town’s immunization activities started on February 1, some parents still refused to have their children vaccinated, said Balamban RHU.
“We are doing house-to-house visits to encourage parents to get their children immunized, but some of them refused because of their fear caused by the Dengvaxia controversy,” Nurse Gwen Aban of the Balamban RHU said in Cebuano.
In 2017, the country was mired in controversy after allegations that the dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia produced by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur and used in a school vaccination program was linked to the deaths of at least 600 individuals, mostly children.
“When we schedule an immunization activity, only a few would come. Let’s say out of 100, only 10 would come,” said Bacaron.
When asked for the possible side effects of the vaccines against measles and polio, Aban said that only mild reactions like pain and tenderness at the injection site are common.
She also said that hypersensitivity may be experienced by a child, which is very rare, but when it occurs, it should be reported to the health center. She said that they have not received any reports of such side effects from children who have already been vaccinated.
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Another reason some children have not been vaccinated yet was because of the long distance between some residences, especially those in mountainous barangays of the town, and the temporary posts where the immunization activities are conducted.
Balamban’s public health workers continue to go to the sitios to vaccinate more children, focusing on the barangays located along the main road where the most number of eligible children are.
The DOH said that immunization is important because there is no cure for measles, rubella, and polio yet, and the only prevention is through getting vaccines.
The MR-OPV SIA Phase 1 was conducted in the Mindanao, Cordillera, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Mimaropa, and Bicol regions last year while Phase 2 was held in the Visayas regions, National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon in 2021.
Under Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign, DOH aims to vaccinate around 5.1 million 0-59-month-old children with the measles-rubella vaccine and around 4.8 million 0-59-month-old children with the oral polio vaccine. (Desiree Christian P. Playda, St. Theresa’s College-Cebu Corporate Communication student)