Fewer children got free measles vaccine and booster shots last year because the government failed to convince their parents to have them immunized, a senator said on Thursday.
Sen. Grace Poe, a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said the Department of Health (DOH) needs to step up its information campaign to persuade parents to have their children vaccinated.
Poe said disappointing outcome of the government’s vaccination program may have something to do with the lack of an effective information drive.
“The very low immunization percentage last year and the continuing decline in the compliance rate for measles vaccine shows that the government needs to let the parents know that the government is providing free immunization,” Poe said in a text message to The Manila Times.
The Times reported that only 6 percent of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines were given to children in 2013, citing data from the DOH.
This is because some parents failed to bring their children for their needed vaccination shots being given for free by the local health centers.
The DOH last year has allotted at least P1.9 billion to immunize children under one year old against BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guarine), DPT (Diptheria Pertussis Tetanus), OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine), Hepatitis B, Measles, Tetanus Toxoid, Measles-Rubella, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and rotavirus.
Aside from the measles shots for children under one-year-old, the DOH also provides booster shots for 12 to 15 month-old children.
But the Health department has acknowledged that it used only 45 percent of the total available booster shots last year.
Poe said the government’s immunization program will not be effective if the public does not know it exists.
“We need an extensive information campaign on the importance of immunization so that parents will not take it for granted,” she said.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DOH is doing every thing possible to prevent the spread of measles.
Coloma said the increase in measles cases is also being experienced in other countries like Pakistan and parts of the United States.
The Times has learned that measles cases continue to rise in the Cordillera Region, Pangasinan, Region 4A and Albay in Luzon as well as in Western Visayas.
The DOH earlier declared an outbreak of the disease in nine cities in Metro Manila.
With a report from Catehrine S. Valente