Disruptions on routine and critical immunization services for Filipino children due to the Covid-19 pandemic are worrying Dr. Carla Ante-Orozco, an immunization specialist from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
She said only 62 percent of the 95 percent target population completed the required doses of critical vaccines in 2020. Lockdowns and redeployment of health personnel to assist in the ongoing extended health crisis response are believed to have reduced access to health services.
A joint statement from the Department of Health, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and other organizations added that only 69 percent of the target completed their routine shots in 2019.
The declining vaccination coverage rates could lead to outbreaks of polio and measles, diseases that had already been considered eradicated by effective vaccination programs. Any outbreak would most likely target “most vulnerable” children in disadvantaged communities.
The immunization specialist pointed out that this was the case around the world as ass immunization campaigns were also disrupted by the ongoing pandemic.
Another contributor to low immunization coverage is vaccine hesitancy, Ante-Orozco said. She noted that even before the Dengvaxia controversy, there was already a decline in the immunization uptake and services in the country.
The DOH reported last month 800,000 of the 95 percent target population in priority regions remain unvaccinated. The agency has repeatedly urged parents and legal guardians to have their kids under 5 years old vaccinated against polio, measles and rubella which are free in public health centers.
While all the attention is currently focused on the country’s problem with securing enough Covid-19 vaccines, a lot of work is yet to be done as far as many other vaccines are involved. If the Philippines is going to be undertaking a massive vaccination effort in the coming months, it would be best for the health care centers and workers all over the country to start preparing by catching up on the missed vaccinations for Filipino children that are as important as the vaccine that we all need but don’t have yet.*