The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) today launched the “Ligtas Tigdas,” a strategy to curb the spread of measles through the provision of free vaccination among infants and children 6-59 months.

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

Vaccination has been proven to be the most effective public health intervention. In fact, since the last measles mass immunization campaign in 2014, this resulted to a significant reduction in measles transmission. However, measles cases have again begun to spread in the last quarter of 2017 leading to some significant outbreaks.

This year outbreaks were declared in Taguig City, and in Zamboanga and Davao. In the current measles outbreak, data from the Epidemiology Bureau (EB) showed that there were 4,168 measles cases reported nationwide from January 01 to March 26, 2018. Out of the 4,168 reported cases, 723 were laboratory-confirmed measles with a total of 13 deaths. Most of the confirmed cases came from regions XI (27.73%), ARMM (21.59%), IX (14.32%), XII (10.45%), and X (10%). Outbreak Response Immunization (ORI) is being implemented in affected provinces however, the measles virus transmission continues to date.

To address the upsurge of measles transmission, a National Measles Supplemental Immunization Activity (SIA) will be conducted from April 25-May 25, 2018 in NCR and on May 09-June 08, 2018 in Mindanao regions. This will involve the administration of measles containing vaccine to infants and children aged 6-59 months.

Health workers are instructed to practice standard immunization safety to prevent adverse events following immunization (AEFIs) and transmission of blood-borne infections. They are also advised not to use vials with any sign of contamination or breakage.

According to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, measles vaccine is safe. Adverse reactions following vaccination are generally mild and transient. Slight pain, tenderness mild swelling and redness at the injection site, mild fever and local adenopathy may usually occur. Severe and systemic reactions following vaccination are rare.