In the Philippines, childhood immunization coverage has been declining sharply in recent years from 87 per cent in 2014 to 68 per cent in 2019, exposing children to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and polio.

The recent measles outbreak in the Philippines in 2019 saw a staggering 130 per cent increase in cases compared to the same period in 2018. Polio re-emerged in the country in 2019 with 17 confirmed cases and health experts fear an increase as the polio outbreak response had to be suspended due to COVID-19.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic and enhanced community quarantine and routine immunization services disrupted or suspended, officials with UNICEF are concerned at least two million Filipino children below two years old may miss out on vaccinations in 2020.

“We recognize the vital role that health workers play during this challenging time. They are heroes in the frontlines risking their lives and the health and welfare of their families. We must do all we can to support, empower and invest in their safety, training and well-being, as they encourage parents to vaccinate against preventable diseases that remain a very real threat to children,” says UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.

UNICEF emphasizes that lifesaving health interventions like immunization cannot be neglected in our efforts to contain COVID-19. Catch-up immunization and intensified immunization activities are deeply needed once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. These vaccination activities must focus on children who missed vaccine doses during this period of interruption and prioritize the poorest and most vulnerable children.

To date, the Philippines has reported 6,981 COVID-19 cases, including 462 deaths.