22 dead in measles outbreak in several regions in the Philippines

Henrietta Brewer
February 9, 2019

The World Health Organization in November 2018 warned that measles cases globally had jumped more than 30 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, in part because of children not being vaccinated.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles disagreed, saying he did not believe compulsory immunization was needed.

The Department of Health (DOH) today declared a measles outbreak at the National Capital Region (NCR).

As many as 57 people, including infants and children, have died at the government-run San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, its spokesman Dr Ferdinand de Guzman said. There were 192 cases and four deaths in Central Luzon, up from 32 cases and no deaths during the same period in 2018; 104 cases and three deaths in Western Visayas, up from 16 cases and no deaths in 2018; and 71 cases and one death, up from two cases in 2018 in Central Visayas.

She attributed the outbreak to low coverage of the DoH's measles immunization program in Region 6 a year ago.

Marlyn M. Convocar, DOH 6 (Western Visayas) director, said that measles isolation rooms were imposed in DOH-run hospitals in the region, such as the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City; the Don Jose Monfort Medical Center Extension Hospital in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo; the Western Visayas Sanitarium in Santa Barbara, Iloilo; and the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

"I think it might be questioned before the courts somehow", he said.

The DOH earlier admitted that their vaccination coverage rate had dropped to 60 percent following the controversy surrounding Dengvaxia with parents refusing to have their children vaccinated for fear that they would suffer adverse side effects.

The outbreaks have prompted concern over the 2.4 million unvaccinated children in the country.

The DOH also reported 575 cases and nine deaths in Calabarzon, up from 21 cases and no deaths from January 1 to January 26, 2018.

Linga also called on the parents of children who are already showing symptoms of flu and fever to immediately bring their children to the nearest health center for a check-up.

The UNICEF also vowed to support the Philippines in fighting measles by ensuring that vaccines are available.

The DOH said there was "low vaccine coverage because of the Dengvaxia scare".

In late 2017, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which licensed Dengvaxia, disclosed that the vaccine, in rare cases, could indeed backfire: If children who never had dengue are vaccinated and later become infected, the vaccine may provoke a much more severe form of the illness.

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