DOH starts measles immunization drive

ILOILO CITY, Philippines (PNA) - The Department of Health (DOH) will conduct a supplemental immunization activity against measles on April 4 to May 4 with the imminent outbreak of the virus nationwide.

DOH Regional Director Dr. Ariel Valencia said the agency targets to achieve a 95 percent coverage.

In a press briefing , Valencia said the campaign is "a critical action" to stop the continuing spread of measles virus in the country. Western Visayas ranked fourth in the number of recorded cases of measles in the country, after National Capital Region, Region III and Region IV-A.

He said the agency has confirmed a number of reported measles cases throughout the country.

DOH's "Iligtas sa Tigdas ang Pinas" targets to immunize 17 million children aged from nine months old to seven years, or equivalent to 19.58 percent of the total population, with measles-rubella vaccines.

Dr. Renilyn Reyes, DOH Western Visayas immunization officer, said the Philippines had committed to eliminate measles in 2012, the target year agreed upon with other countries in the Western Pacific Region.

The country conducted immunization campaigns in 1998, 2004 and 2007 and achieved a 95-percent coverage in each round, however, "even if we have a high coverage, outbreaks may still occur for the next five to 10 years," Reyes said.

"No vaccine gives 100 percent immunization. Also, there are unreachable areas especially in the far-flung places while other areas do not believe in the benefits of immunization due of cultural beliefs," she explained.

She said outbreaks occur when there is an accumulation of susceptible individuals - vaccinated and unvaccinated children. But, with the campaign and with the latest measles-rubella vaccine, the four measles strains found in the country shall be neutralized, she added.

Reyes said that the child should be vaccinated at least twice to boost immunization and enable them to reach a 95 percent protection. "Regardless of the immunization status, the children shall be immunized again. There is no overdose in this vaccine," she said.

Following the month-long immunization activity, the agency shall conduct a close monitoring of measles cases in the region for the next three months. This is to ensure that no cases of measles shall occur and that the agency could immediately act if there is any, Reyes said.

As of Sunday, Western Visayas has recorded 12 cases of measles - two in Iloilo Province, six in Roxas City, three in Antique, and one in Iloilo City.

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