The Department of Health (DOH) reiterated its call to all parents to bring their infants and kids to health centers to get free vaccination shots that will protect them from acquiring 13 life-threatening diseases.
“Vaccinations prevent serious or sometimes fatal diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type B, polio, pneumococcal infections, rotavirus infections, influenza, measles, Japanese encephalitis, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and human papillomavirus (HPV). These are Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs)” said Dr. Beverly Ho, Director of the Health Promotion Bureau of the DOH.
Ho added that it is critical to complete all childhood immunizations. She said that if the baby misses an immunization, he or she is at risk of these VPDs. These diseases have long-term effects such as compromised immunity making them susceptible to serious illness as they grow up.
An unvaccinated baby is also a source of infection for other babies. In 2019, for example, the DOH was able to contain a measles outbreak with a total of 47,871 cases of measles, including 632 deaths. DOH immediately launched a massive nationwide measles vaccination campaign. Health workers inoculated some 15 million people, mostly kids, nationwide. The targeted vaccinations slowed the outbreak significantly.
There are also financial implications if the baby has low immunization due to lack of vaccination. “The family will be burdened with medical expenses and one of the parents would be absent from work, causing also loss of income,” explained Ho.
“We understand the worry of many parents to keep their babies and kids at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But COVID-19 is similar to VPDs since they could result in serious illness and even death. Vaccination is the only way to protect our babies and kids from VPDs,” said Ho.
Vaccines provided by the National Immunization Program of the DOH are free to all Filipino children regardless of economic status. Local health offices, with the guidance of the DOH Central Office and regional DOH offices, are using different strategies to address problems in the access of immunization services.
Vaccinations of infants and kids are now done on a house to house or door-to-door approach where health workers inoculate kids right at their doorstep. Mobile vaccinations where health workers are transported in far-flung areas either through tricycles or boats are also being done today. There are also community-based immunizations to inoculate all children in a targeted hard-to-reach area.
“We are doing these innovative catch-up programs on immunization of infants and children. Last year, our immunization rate was at 65%, a 3.9 percent drop from the 69% immunization rate in 2019. We would like to assure parents that there are strict safety protocols in place when their babies are brought in the health centers. The risk of acquiring VPDs is higher than getting sick with COVID-19 when they bring their kids to the health center for the free vaccination. So long as we all follow the safety protocols, we can protect our children from both COVID-19 and vaccine preventable diseases,” explained Ho.
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