The 95-percent coverage of immunization from measles for Filipino children in all towns, cities and provinces nationwide aimed by the Department of Health (DOH) might be difficult to achieve.
A source from the health sector who declined to be named told The Manila Times that as DOH is preparing for its Nationwide Immunization Program by September this year, such goal might be hard to attain owing to some reasons.
He points to lack of cooperation of the residents of private or exclusive subdivisions. Often, local health officers find it difficult to enter these areas to conduct vaccination drives for children because of security issues.
Too, some pediatricians of children living in such areas, or even private hospitals or clinics, which administer vaccines, seldom cooperate with local health officers.
In the case of private hospitals or clinics, he said they hardly release records of vaccination that would be of help for documentation done by health staff.
Also, local health officers rely on how local government, not DOH, monitors the health situation in an area. Once the mayor of a certain town recognizes the need for vaccination after the outbreak of a disease is declared there, the local health office would immediately act on it. In this case, DOH would provide logistical support like vaccines, the source said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said in a press briefing on Monday that migration to Manila may be a contributing factor for the spread of measles in Metro Manila since late last year.
He stressed that it would be very important for DOH officials to recognize these impediments before setting such goals.
In Marikina City, a health official here said the residents started flocking to the city’s health centers after reports of the so-called measles outbreak in Metro Manila came out.
“Although such reports created panic and fear for the people, it is also a good thing that through these, they finally became fully aware of the importance of immunizing their children against measles,” Dr. Christy Sy, immunization officer of the city’s health office (CHO), told The Manila Times on Friday.
She stressed that vaccines for measles and other diseases are available at barangay centers and are all given for free. CHO conducts vaccination drives every Wednesday and Friday.
Marikina recorded five confirmed measles cases last year. CHO is still looking into the possibility that two of these cases did not originate here, but from nearby towns.
She also reported that since the start of classes in January 6, CHO has received eight suspected cases of measles, including 15-year-old twins in a barangay here.
Records of immunization for children in the city are not a problem as the office regularly checks the status of vaccination for the city’s children, Sy said.
In Las Piñas City where the highest confirmed cases of measles was recorded last year (78 cases), Dr. Ferdinand Eusebio asked the public to have discipline in treating these reports, and encouraged them to let their children be injected with anti-measles vaccines.
“We are now doing response immunization for children in areas here where measles outbreak were declared, and catch-up vaccination for kids in places near the outbreak zones,” Eusebio told The Manila Times.
Nationwide action via schools
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday released a memorandum on measures versus the measles outbreak for all schools nationwide.
Based on the DepEd Memorandum Order 3, S. 2014, all school officials are mandated to mobilize teachers, school health and nutrition personnel, and alternative learning systems coordinators to disseminate information about measles and measles immunization.
DepEd assistant secretary for legal and legislative affairs Tonisito Umali said the education department, following the advisory of the Department of Health (DOH), is conducting an anti-measles campaign in all schools nationwide.
“We have advised all our concerned offices in the regions down to the school level to identify and report any case of measles to the concerned local health units as a result of the Preventive Alert System in Schools (PASS) using the guidelines that we have issued,” Umali told this reporter in an interview on Friday.
The DepEd memo orders all teachers-in-charge to explain in class in which students will observe the well-being of their own classmates and if someone among them is not feeling well or has colds, cough, and feverish.
“Meron po tayong sistema na ang mga teachers-in-charge ipapaliwanag nila sa bawat mag-aaral para manmanan nila ang kanilang mga kamag-aral. At kapag nakita nila na mukhang inuubo, nilalagnat, may sipon o may sakit ang ilan sa kanilang kamag-aral kailangan iulat kaagad sa teacher for validation,” Umali explained.
Umali also said that teachers are likewise mandated to monitor or detect the presence of fever and other signs and symptoms of [measles]infection.
“The teacher is mandated to observe the health status of the pupil at kapag nakita niya dapat i-report kaagad sa principal at ‘yung bata dapat ipadala kaagad sa school physician at kung walang school physician i-refer sa nearest health center para magpatingin,” the DepEd official added.
The child, if found sick, will be sent home regardless of the cause [of infection], Umali said.
He also noted that teachers shall conduct a regular monitoring of health status of school children and document record on health status.
“We are expecting our school principals to take the lead in implementing this system [Preventive Alert System in Schools],” the DepEd official added.
With report from Neil A. Alcober