Measles breaks out across the Philippines after Dengvaxia vaccine scare

Anne Curtis was named UNICEF national goodwill ambassador on Thursday. Shiela Reyes ABS-CBN News

In late 2017, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which licensed Dengvaxia, disclosed that the vaccine, in rare cases, could indeed backfire: If children who never had dengue are vaccinated and later become infected, the vaccine may provoke a much more severe form of the illness.

Authorities in the Philippines have declared an outbreak of the highly contagious measles virus in several areas including the capital, Manila.

The DOH said that as of January 26, it has recorded 575 cases with nine deaths in Calabarzon, 441 cases with five deaths in Metro Manila, 192 cases with four deaths in Central Luzon, 104 cases with three deaths in Western Visayas and 71 cases with one death in Central Visayas.

In addition to the NCR area, health officials are also closely monitoring the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa (Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Cordillera region, and Caraga for measles.

A year ago under the routine immunization strategy, the coverage reached 54 percent or 113,209 children out of 210,291 target. In Metro Manila, meanwhile, there were five deaths, and in Luzon, there were 192 cases and four deaths.

Last year, there were 245 confirmed from out of the 1,052 suspected measles cases.

The health department and public health advocates blamed the measles outbreak on a massive health scare over Dengvaxia, the once-promising dengue vaccine introduced by the government three years ago.

Asked if the President was disappointed with the DoH's efforts to promote the immunization program, Nograles said he did not get the sense of dismay from Duterte during the recent Cabinet meeting.

"Nutritional support and oral rehydration are important measures to increase body resistance and replace lost body fluids caused by coughing, diarrhea, and perspiration", Duque added.

"I hope concerns like this should not be politicized because the lives of the children are at stake here", she said.

"Vaccinations to prevent measles is available free of cost in government health centers".

He said the Department of Health is also expected to work closely with the Presidential Communications Operations Office in raising public awareness about the importance of vaccines to ensure public health.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque told local media that bronchopneumonia from measles complications can be deadly, and encouraged parents to bring their children for immunisation. "I can not be blaming her for that", he said. "Why deprive them of protection just because of a controversy involving one vaccine?"

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