‘IMMUNIZATION IS A RIGHT’

DOH: Don’t rob kids of protection from diseases

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ILOILO City – Immunization is a basic right of children. They must not be deprived of the opportunity to be protected from diseases, according to the Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas. There is an outbreak of measles in the region. The culprit is the low immunization rate, says the department.

“It is also the parents’ obligation to have their children vaccinated,” stressed Dr. Marlyn Convocar, DOH Region 6 director.

Some parents became hesitant to have their children immunized due to misinformation or “fake news” about vaccines triggered by the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, lamented Convocar.

But she reminded parents yesterday that immunity from diseases is “the best inheritance” they could leave their children.

Convocar stressed the importance of “inter-sectoral collaboration” for the correct dissemination of information on the benefits of immunization on children.

DOH’s measles vaccination program has been going on for the past 30 years. Convocar assured parents that the measles vaccine is safe and effective.

For her part, Dr. Renilyn Reyes, medical officer IV of DOH Region 6, said the World Health Organization recommends two shots of the measles vaccine for children to achieve “95 percent protection.”

The first dose is given at nine months old and another dose when the child reaches 12 months old or before reaching 15 month.

Data from DOH Region 6 showed that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 2 this year, cases of suspected measles in Region 6 reached 220 of which 10 have so far been confirmed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Laboratory analysis is ongoing for the other suspected cases, said Convocar.

The 10 confirmed cases were from Antique (one each from Hamtic, San Jose and Patnongon towns), Iloilo (two from Cabatuan, one each from Janiuay and Maasin towns), and Negros Occidental (one each from Himamaylan town, Cadiz City and Sagay City).

There were three suspected measles deaths. These were from Sibalom, Antique and Escalante and Talisay cities in Negros Occidental.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. The virus is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.

Initial symptoms, which usually appear between 10 to 12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.

DOH Region 6 has two measles immunization strategies:

* routine immunization – for children between six to 15 months old administered in health centers

* school-based immunization – for Grade 1 and Grade 7 pupils.

It also has “supplemental immunization” covering local government units with measles cases.

Last year under the routine immunization strategy, the coverage reached 54 percent or 113,209 children out of 210,291 target.

Under the school-based immunization, on the other hand, the coverage (Grade 1 pupils) reached only 36 percent or 57,000 children out of the 156,627 target.

For Grade 7 pupils, the coverage was higher at 58 percent or 97,500 children out of the 169,220 target.

Under the supplemental immunization, meanwhile, the coverage reached 58 percent or 195,356 children out of the 339,181 target.

According to Convocar, government hospitals in the region were directed to establish “measles fast lanes” where suspected cases would be prioritized.

Once confirmed, Convocar said, the patient must be isolated.

While global measles deaths have decreased by 84 percent worldwide in recent years — from 550,100 deaths in 2000 to 89,780 in 2016 — the World Health Organization (WHO) said measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa.

An estimated seven million people were affected by measles in 2016. The overwhelming majority (more than 95 percent) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures, according to WHO./PN

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