As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Department of Health (DOH) is encouraging the public to join immunization programs that would defend their children from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, and rubella. The first to ramp up are the DOH-Centers for Health Development (CHD) in the Bicol and MIMAROPA regions.

The DOH-CHD in Bicol is launching a Measles, Rubella and Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine Supplemental Immunization Activity (MR-OPV SIA) from October 26 to November 25, 2020.  Meanwhile, the DOH-CHD in MIMAROPA is holding its own National Measles, Rubella, and Polio Supplemental Immunization Activity, and will multiply its efforts in offering the needed technical assistance to all the Local Government Units (LGUs).

The DOH has been vigilant in preventing measles, rubella, and poliomyelitis–diseases that are highly contagious, and may lead to grave complications including permanent disability and death. However, they can be prevented through vaccinations.

Health Secretary Dr. Francisco T. Duque III has also shared the significance of implementing the MR OPV campaign.  He said, “While all of us rightfully remain vigilant about COVID-19, we have to be equally mindful as well when it comes to diseases like measles, rubella, and polio. Our children need protection from these diseases, and this can be given through proper vaccination. We invite our parents to join this campaign to protect their families’ health.”

The need to boost immunization in Bicol comes from the fact that 35% of children in the region who are eligible still do not have vaccinations. In 2018, only 104, 853 children have been immunized. With the recent disruption of immunization services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children who are not immunized may increase, which may result in the spread of diseases.

For the campaign in Bicol, children who are zero to 59 months will be given the bivalent Oral Polio Vaccines (OPV), while those who are nine to 59 months will be given supplemental doses of vaccines of Measles-Rubella (MR).

Meanwhile, as of October 4, 2020, MIMAROPA already has 272 cases of measles with one death reported; almost all of these cases have been among children under five years old. The MR-OPV SIA in the region will immunize at least 95% of all children who are nine months to less than 5 years old of age with MR vaccine. All children who are under five years old will be administered OPV.

To respond to the outbreaks, the DOH-CHD MIMAROPA will begin a series of social mobilization activities targeting stakeholders who can lend support to the campaign. This will be from October 26 to November 25, 2020.

These include partners from other government agencies and private sectors including Philippine Pediatric Society, local chief executives, frontline health workers, community leaders, faith-based group leaders, and media practitioners.

According to DOH CHD MIMAROPA Regional Director, Dr. Mario S. Baquilod, it is very important to address the situation and to have a boosted campaign that would implement an intensified and high-coverage immunization against halt measles transmission.

“At this most trying time, I urge parents and caregivers of children below five years old to bring their children to our health centers for vaccination. The measles, rubella and polio vaccines are safe, effective and free. Furthermore, we assure everyone that all healthcare workers who will administer the vaccine will strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety protocol being implemented by the LGUs to ensure the safety of the community while the immunization is taking place,” Dr. Baquilod has stated.

Sec. Duque echoed the same perspective, saying that the reduction of risks to illnesses like COVID-19, measles, polio, and rubella, can be prevented especially when done early and regularly. Hee said, “COVID-19 has safety protocols that we encourage the public to do, such as regular handwashing, sanitizing, and social distancing. In the same, vaccination acts as a preventive measure that guards our children from contracting diseases like polio. We welcome the public’s participation in these campaigns.”