The number of measles cases in at least two places outside Metro Manila has increased alarmingly.
Concern about a resurgence of the disease had been focused on Metro Manila, where there were more than 744 confirmed cases last year.
Three infants died of measles in the metropolis in 2013, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
But health authorities in Bicol and Olongapo City are reporting a rise in measles cases recently.
The DOH in Bicol is bracing for an outbreak after 12 cases were reported in Albay and two in Sorsogon.
On Tuesday, Nathaniel Rempillo, the acting provincial health officer of Albay, said eight suspected cases of measles were admitted at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital.
To head off an outbreak, Rempillo has mobilized all health personnel in the province, including barangay health workers, for a massive immunization drive.
Last year there were 140 measles cases in Bicol, 18 of which were confirmed through laboratory examination, Gloria Balboa, DOH regional director told a press briefing in Legazpi City on Wednesday.
Last year’s figure is broken down into six each in Albay and Sorsogon, five in Camarines Sur and one in Masbate.
Outbreaks were confirmed in the towns of Camalig, Daraga and in Legazpi City in Albay, Castila and Pilar in Sorsogon, Caramoan, Magarao and Pili in Camarines Sur and Palanas town in Masbate.
The DOH in Bicol will step up the immunization of children aged six months old to five years old.
Balboa said the success of immunization depends on the support of local governments, media and other concerned groups because the DOH could not do it alone.
Measles is a highly communicable viral disease transmitted through droplets, spread from person to person caused by sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.
Dr. Aurora Teresa Daluro, DOH medical specialist 111 and RESU chief in Bicol said measles, while treatable, could lead to complications such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, blindness, otitis media and encephalitis.
Daluro told The Times that a nine-month-old child vaccinated with a first dose of vaccine is 85 percent protected, and a 12 month-old receiving a second dose of mumps-measles-rubella (mmr) vaccine is at least 95 percent protected.
In 2011, the DOH in Bicol spent P14 million for medicines for a door-to-door mmr immunization targeting children aged nine months to below eight years old.
The campaign was part of the government’s “Iligtas sa Tigdas ang Pinas” (Save the country from measles) program to eliminate measles by 2012.
In Olongapo, the city health office (CHO) has also launched a door-to-door immunization program after recording more than 60 cases on Monday.
The city aims to immunize 10,000 individuals, with nine-months to 10-year-old children getting priority, before April, since measles usually peaks during summer.
The CHO has 200 vials of vaccine from the DOH and plans to acquire 200 more from the city health fund.
It needs more vials because its current supply is good only for 4,000 children.
CHO said that one vial is enough for 10 individuals vaccinations.
Lloyd Bryan Tuban, CHO deputy chief, appealed to parents to allow the health officers into their houses to give their children the shots.
“Though our city is not yet under alert we won’t wait for that to happen,” Tuban said.
Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag told The Times on Wednesday the department has enough vaccine shots for about two million children.
Tayag said there are enough people to administer the shots. Health workers, however, in barangays are not qualified to administer the vaccine.
In Pateros, where there are no reported cases of measles last year, health officials are playing it safe by stepping up the immunization campaign.
Ranel Martinez, surveillance officer of the municipal health office, said health workers are aiming to have about 7 percent of the children in Pateros vaccinated.
“We may have no confirmed cases of measles until November last year, but we started receiving reports of suspected cases in some areas here. So based on those, we assume that about 93 percent of Pateros children were already immunized last year,” Martinez said.
Martinez assured that the vaccines are properly stored in refrigerators.
With report from Ruffie Cruz