ILOILO City – The Department of Health (DOH) is banking on school-based immunization to sustain the slowdown in measles cases in Western Visayas.
Dr. Renilyn Reyes, head of DOH Region 6’s Family Health and Nutrition Cluster, noted a downtrend in measles cases from January to June this year.
Though the cases picked up to around 750 cases in February and March from around 300 cases in January, these went down to around 400 cases in April, around 200 in May and less than 100 in June.
“To sustain this trend and avoid another measles outbreak, we suggest that local government units conduct school-based anti-measles immunization this July to September,” said Reyes.
The ideal targets are unvaccinated children from Kindergarten to Grade 7, she added.
On the other hand, those in Grade 1 and Grade 7 could get additional Tetanus-diphtheria, said Reyes.
Grade 4 female students between nine to 14 years old, meanwhile, may get Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) shots.
According to Reyes, there are a total of 968,676 enrolled students in the region from Grade 1 to 7 of which 30 percent or 290,602 are the approximate target for vaccination.
Meantime, the target Grade 4 female students to get HPV, a vaccine against cervical cancer, are 67,038.
Based on DOH data as of July 6r, the number of measles cases in Western Visayas is 2,497 with seven deaths.
The province of Negros Occidental has the highest number of cases with 711 followed by Iloilo province (699), Antique (350), Bacolod City (296), Capiz (171), Aklan (165), Iloilo City (141), Guimaras (29), and others (35).
DOH attributed the decreasing number of measles cases to the implementation of the immunization program last year.
Reyes said out of around 490,082 target population (children aged six to 59 months), they were able to immunize 451,446 or 92 percent.
They also immunized 111,735 or 66 percent of 168,675 total number of Grade 1 to Grade 7 students.
Aside from students, there are also older age groups which included health workers immunized against measles.
Unlike last year when parents were hesitant to have their children vaccinated due to misconceptions on immunization and due to the Dengvaxai scare, Reyes observed that now most of them already wanted their children vaccinated; they were scared their children would get measles.
It was in February this year when the DOH central office declared a measles outbreak in some regions, including Western Visayas.
As policy, Reyes said, it is only the DOH Secretary who can lift the “outbreak status” of the regions.
“Nagahulat kita official statement sang DOH,” said Reyes./PN