CV lags behind vax for measles, rubella

CENTRAL Visayas (CV) is still far from reaching herd immunity against measles and rubella with 348,934 children, or 46.75 percent of the regional target, left unvaccinated.

Dr. Joan Antonette Albito, a medical officer IV of the Family Health Section of the Department of Health (DOH) 7, said they only have two weeks to reach the target for the immunization program.

She said DOH 7 targets to vaccinate around 681,534 or 95 percent out of the 717,405 children aged five years old and below in the region to achieve herd immunity against measles and rubella.

Around the first week of May 2023, the regional health agency started a month-long campaign against the diseases through the “Chikiting Ligtas 2023.”

As of May 18, DOH 7 records 332,600 children in CV who are immunized against measles and rubella diseases, representing only 48.27 percent of the target.

This means that they have to immunize at least 37,000 kids per day to achieve the target.

Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination.

Pandemic to blame

Albito claims that the Covid-19 pandemic is the main reason for the vaccination slowdown as measles and rubella vaccinations were put on hiatus for two years.

“This is a critical turning point of the immunization program because, in the past two years, we were in the pandemic. It affected our immunization coverage in the whole country, it really went down,” she said.

“It only means that a lot of our children are susceptible to getting these vaccine-preventable diseases,” she added.

Furthermore, the perception of the public about vaccines was affected by misinformation spreading during the height of the pandemic.

This is why DOH 7 is working double time to inform the public about the necessity of measles and rubella vaccinations.

Expanded coverage

“This immunization activity is not just the sole responsibility of DOH 7, though we lead it, but we are working closely with the local government units (LGU),” Albito said.

She said that while the majority of immunizations are carried out in each barangay’s health center, local health offices in LGUs are also assisting in taking the campaign house-to-house level.

Albito added that they are also teaming up with the private sector to bring the immunization program in malls in Cebu for them to be closer to the public.

Aside from Robinsons Malls, which will host the vaccination site in Galleria Cebu in Barangay Tejero, Cebu City, the SM Supermalls have vaccination sites at their branches in Cebu City and Consolacion town.