DOH warns of measles outbreak in 2021

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    ASIDE from its continuing battle with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Health (DOH) is also bracing for a possible measles outbreak next year.

    In a virtual press briefing, DOH National Immunization Program Manager Dr. Maria Wilda Silva said “the possibility of an outbreak for next year is quite high” because the agency’s immunization campaign this year reached only 67 percent of its target.

    “This means we have 23 percent who were missed by the vaccine, thereby making them susceptible to measles infection,” said Silva.

    She added they also need to consider those who were not able to avail of the supplemental immunization activities.

    “If the target isn’t met, they will be added to the numbers of those who are susceptible to measles next year,” said Silva, adding they are also factoring in the number of persons infected with measles who have acquired natural immunity.

    “How many were infected with measles in the community? So we are also looking at these numbers. If there are a lot, then they won’t acquire measles anymore,” said Silva.

    Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world, with about 9 in 10 people exposed to the virus contracting the disease. It can cause high fever, rashes, cough, eye infection and can lead to complications such as pneumonia, ear infection, blindness, severe diarrhea, and swelling of the brain.

    To prevent an outbreak, the DOH said it is set to conduct a nationwide measles, rubella, and polio supplemental immunization activity (MR-OPV SIA) starting October 26.

    The DOH said Phase 1 will be conducted from October 26 to November 25, 2020 in the whole of Mindanao, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, MIMAROPA, and Bicol Region.

    Phase 2 will be conducted in February 2021 in the whole of Visayas, National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON.

    The DOH said children aged 9 to 59 months old will be given measles-rubella vaccines while those at least 59 months old will be provided with oral polio vaccine.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III encouraged parents and caregivers to have their children immunized, saying the vaccines are safe, effective, and free.

    “Vaccines save lives and prevent disabilities from diseases. Vaccines give our children a good start at life so they can grow to be healthy, productive adults in the future. Therefore, no child should be left behind,” Duque said.