In a follow-up to a report concerning the increases in measles in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, a measles outbreak has been declared by the city.

Face of child with measles. Image/CDC
Face of child with measles. Image/CDC

In light of the Zamboanga outbreak, the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) is making an effort to win back the public trust concerning vaccines after the Dengvaxia debacle.

“Although some sectors may attribute the outbreak to the Dengvaxia issue, it is actually the result of low measles vaccine coverage in the past years which led to the accumulation of susceptible individuals,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

Surveillance reports show that measles cases started to increase in Zamboanga City in August 2017. In 2018 alone, a total of 166 measles cases were recorded.

A case of a six-month old baby boy who died on February 6, 2018 presented all signs and symptoms of measles such as fever, rash, cough, coryza, conjunctivitis, malaise, and dyspnea and was the lone fatality recorded.

Upon interview of key individuals, it was learned that there was a low measles vaccine coverage with the last supplemental immunization conducted in 2014. Selective catch-up immunization was conducted in affected area during the last quarter of 2017 with the aim of increasing vaccine coverage. The DOH conducted an outbreak immunization response on February 12, 2018.

Duque advised the parents to “immediately isolate children with fever and rashes and seek consultation for those with complications such as pneumonia or diarrhea and for health workers to seek laboratory confirmation for suspect cases. Let me reiterate that vaccination is still the best protection against this particular disease.”

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Lastly, Duque further addressed the public, “We appeal to all mothers and guardians to ensure that their children receive the complete doses of measles vaccine, the 1st dose at 9 months of age and the 2nd dose at 12 months of age. Let us not lose sight of the benefits that other vaccines have provided to us. These have been proven to be very effective in preventing diseases as we have seen in the past.”

LISTEN to vaccine expert, Dr Melvin Sanicas discuss vaccines in the podcast below: