DOH-12 to expand measles immunization program

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 9 Jan) – The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 12 is planning to expand the coverage this year of its continuing measles immunization program as it moves to avert a possible outbreak of the disease in the area.

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, DOH Region 12 director, said Thursday they are working on the delivery of additional measles vaccines to various rural health units to facilitate another round of massive measles vaccination among children in the region.

In the last five years, he said the region’s child immunization rate for measles only averaged about 80 percent, rendering the area vulnerable to possible outbreaks.

“To free us from measles outbreaks, we should maintain a fully immunized child rate of about 95 percent,” Baluma said in a radio interview.

The DOH has raised the alert level against measles in the entire country due to the continuing outbreak in parts of Metro Manila.

The agency recorded a total of 1,724 measles cases and 21 deaths in the country last year and with 13 of the 17 regions reporting increases in disease incidence. A total of 744 cases were recorded in Metro Manila alone.

In 2013, the DOH-12’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) only recorded four confirmed measles infection out of the over 100 suspected cases.

Dr. Baby Allah Vingno, regional epidemiologist, said they have not recorded a single case of measles infection in the area in the last 30 days.

Baluma said the planned massive vaccination drive will focus on reaching out to the remaining 20 percent of the children in the region who were not yet immunized against the measles virus.

He said they are worried that the virus might eventually catch up with the unimmunized children and trigger outbreaks.

The official said they have already coordinated with the rural health units or local health offices in the region in preparation for the expansion of the immunization drive.

He said they also directed local health centers to intensify their ongoing measles immunization programs.

“We still have available measles vaccines in our health centers and residents may avail them for free,” he said.

Baluma urged parents of children who are not yet immunized against measles to immediately avail of the free vaccines.

He added that although measles is not considered a deadly disease, an unattended infection might trigger serious complications that could lead to death.