The Philippines has been grappling with an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) in the first months of 2023–diphtheria cases are up 775 percent, measles are up 299 percent and pertussis cases have increased 400 percent through April 8 this year.
From January 1 through April 8, the Philippines Department of Health have reported 25 total pertussis, or whooping cough cases, up from five cases reported during the same period in 2022.
Zamboanga Peninsula and BARMM – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao are the regions reporting the most cases to date with five each.
One death has been reported from Region XII (SOCCSKSARGEN).
The Philippines coverage for VPDs among children is below 60 percent with the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary culprit.
According to Philippine General Hospital Department of Pediatrics Infectious and Tropical Disease Section chief Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, to achieve herd immunity, the country’s target is to vaccinate 90 percent of the children against vaccine preventable childhood diseases like pertussis, diphtheria, measles, polio and tetanus, among others.
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As for the vaccination against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) specifically, the Philippines is also one of the countries with children completely unvaccinated in 2020.
Ong-Lim explained the drop in immunization coverage is not exclusive to the Philippines as it was observed worldwide due to the pandemic.
Apart from the Philippines, the 17 million children who are unprotected against DPT are from Angola, Brazil, Dominican Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan and Nigeria.
The global immunization coverage dropped from 86 percent in 2019 to 81 percent in 2021.
In the same year, the number of completely unvaccinated children increased by 5 million since 2019.
Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that affects the lungs and respiratory tract and is particularly dangerous to infants who are less than one year of age.
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