Vaccines bring us closer: Philippines celebrates World Immunization Week to honor the importance of life-saving vaccinations

Joint Media Release│24 April 2021

The Philippines joins the global celebration of World Immunization Week 2021 on 24-30 April. With the theme ‘Vaccines bring us closer’, the World Immunization Week recognizes and honors the importance of immunization and its role in improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere, throughout life.

The Department of Health (DOH), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations, lead a series of online activities lined up for the local celebration such as media fora, a ceremonial recognition of health workers and partners, and engagement events for parents, caregivers and local leaders.

“This year’s theme “Vaccines bring us closer” takes on additional importance as COVID-19 vaccines join the arsenal of prevention measures to control the pandemic,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said. “With the way this pandemic changed our relationships, now there is hope–through the continuous rollout of COVID-19 vaccines–that vaccines will bring us closer once more. For this year’s celebration of the World Immunization Week, we hope to further raise awareness on the crucial role of immunization in saving lives and intensify our campaign for routine immunization against various vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in this time of pandemic,” Sec. Duque added.

Towards a strong and resilient immunization system

World Immunization Week activities aim to engage local leaders, parents, health workers and partners to build a strong and resilient immunization system, improve vaccination coverage rates, and ensure that more lives are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases—long-time immunization partners such as WHO and UNICEF have once again affirmed their commitments to work with the DOH toward achieving these goals.

World Immunization Week 2021 is also a time to renew public trust in the value of all vaccines and continue to build long-term support and awareness for immunization, as vaccines have proven to be critical in containing or limiting outbreaks of infectious diseases and in combating the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Globally, immunization from diseases like polio, measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and influenza prevents 2 million to 3 million deaths every year. In the Philippines, the polio outbreak response continued in 2020 with the Nationwide Vaccination Campaign to prevent a possible measles outbreak and halt the continuing spread of polio and rubella. Under this program, more than 8.5 million children were vaccinated with the measles-rubella vaccine, and more than 6.1 million children were immunized against polio between October 2020 and March 2021. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is also currently being rolled out among priority groups, beginning with health workers, and vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and persons with comorbidities.

Recovering from the pandemic’s toll on routine immunization

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children receiving life-saving routine childhood immunization in the Philippines and despite vaccination being an essential health service–available and accessible during quarantine–immunization uptake has decreased, with 62% children completing their routine vaccines in 2020 as compared with 69% the previous year. This year’s activities shall be aimed at ensuring that the country covers lost ground–children who missed routine vaccines during the pandemic–and ensuring adequate uptake of vaccination.

“WHO recognizes the Philippines as one of the few countries which successfully conducted large-scale vaccination campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that we use our gains from the recent immunization campaigns – investments in building health workers’ capacity, strengthened collaborations within and beyond the health sector, increased local government ownership – as fresh foundation for a stronger immunization program and for the restoration of immunization uptake that has been impacted by the pandemic. We look forward to that day when we achieve high and equitable coverage through routine immunization and prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. WHO has been and will be closely working with the DOH towards this goal,” says WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

“UNICEF, as it celebrates its 75th anniversary, has been in the Philippines working hand in hand with the government so that children can reach their full potential. UNICEF is fighting for a world where no child dies from a preventable disease and all children realize their right to good health. As we battle COVID-19, our aim is not just to return to normal, because for millions of children around the world, normal was never good enough. We need to redouble our efforts by investing in health and essential services that reach all children,” says Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative.

With this, the DOH, WHO, and UNICEF invite the public to join the celebration of the World Immunization Week. Follow us on social media for information on how to be involved:

DOH: facebook.com/DOHhealthypilipinas

WHO: facebook.com/whophilippines

UNICEF: facebook.com/unicefphilippines

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Media Contacts

DOH

Carlos Joshua Lazaro, External Communication Team Lead, Communications Management Unit - Department of Health, calazaro@doh.gov.ph, +639057631184

WHO Philippines

Jun Ryan Orbina, Communication Officer for Immunization, WHO Philippines, orbinaj@who.int, +63906 438 6312

Suzanne Kerba, Communication Consultant, WHO Philippines, kerbas@who.int, +63977 6476463

UNICEF Philippines

Niko Wieland, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Philippines, nmwieland@unicef.org, +63 917 867 8366

Marge Francia, Communication Officer, UNICEF Philippines, mfrancia@unicef.org, +63917 858 9447