Photo by Department of Health (Philippines)
Press Release/ 11 February 2019
The Department of Health (DOH) today points to vaccine hesitancy as one of the reasons for the recent measles outbreak in some regions of the country. Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.
Validated data from different regions of the country by the Epidemiology Bureau of DoH revealed that from 1 January to 9 February this year, a total of 4,302 measles cases have been reported, with 70 deaths. Ages of cases ranged from 1 month up to 75 years old with 1 to 4 years old (34%) followed by less than 9 months old (27%) as the most affected age-groups. Sixty-six percent of them had no history of vaccination against measles.
Of the total deaths, ages ranged from one month to 31 years old. Notably, 79% of those who died had no history of vaccination.
Regions with high reported cases are NCR (1,296 cases and 18 deaths) CALABARZON (1,086 cases and 25 deaths), Central Luzon (481 cases with 3 deaths), Western Visayas (212 cases and 4 deaths) and Northern Mindanao (189 cases and 2 deaths).
Eastern Visayas, MIMAROPA, CALABARZON, Central Visayas and Bicol are regions that have shown increasing trend as to reported cases for this week.
The causes of measles outbreak involved a number of factors or elements. Loss of public confidence and trust in vaccines in the immunization program brought about by the Dengvaxia controversy has been documented as one of many factors that contributed to vaccine hesitancy in the country. This refers to mothers who became hesitant to have their children vaccinated with vaccines that were long proven to be effective.
On October 2018, the World Health Organization conducted a study in selected areas in Metro Manila to identify reasons for not bringing their children for immunization. The top reasons are the following: fear due to Dengvaxia, and the lack of time among households.
Moreover, results of the vaccine confidence project in 2015 against 2018 by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the respondents’ views that vaccines are important decreased from 93% to 32%; safe and effective from 82% down to 21% and vaccine confidence dropped from 93 to 32% respectively.
DOH has been conducting vaccination activities against measles such as Outbreak Immunization Responses (ORI) in several regions. This was followed by a nationwide Supplemental Immunization Activity (SIA) for 6 to 59 months old which was conducted in 2 phases – in April 2018 (NCR and Mindanao) and in September 2018 (other parts of Luzon and Visayas). Despite the efforts of health workers, the SIA campaign had achieved a coverage of 69% during Phase 1 of implementation and 29% in Phase 2.
“I appeal to the public to rebuild your trust and confidence in vaccines that were long proven to be effective, and I am quite sure that all of us sometime in our lives have been recipients of these vaccines which had protected us from various diseases,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III concluded.