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Measles surge in Laguna to last up to March: DOH

Towns and cities still struggling to meet immunization targets but renewed efforts — such as an action plan in Santa Rosa City — are underway.

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By EVE MATTA and LEOBEL COLONA

SANTA ROSA CITY — Health officials said this week the public reception to the government’s mass immunization has turned well, even as the number of people infected with measles continues to rise.

In this city, an eight-month-old infant died amid an outbreak of the disease declared in several regions, including the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (Calabarzon). City Health Officer Dr. Soledad Rosanna Cunanan reported that measles cases in the city reached a total of 52 from January up to February 15.

The Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 328 cases and six deaths, as of February 18, in Laguna province. Region-wide, DOH-Calabarzon has recorded 2,394 cases and 57 deaths in the same period.

A child gets a shot of the measles vaccine at a “fixed site” vaccination center established by the Department of Health and the local government in a fast-food chain in Biñan City on February 12. (Photo courtesy of DOH-Calabarzon)

Rizal province registered the most number of cases at 1,289 and 41 deaths, followed by Laguna. Cavite has 298 cases and seven deaths; Batangas with 239 cases and two deaths, and Quezon with 240 cases and one death.
DOH regional director Dr. Eduardo Janairo, in a recent phone interview, said the number may continue to rise. “We expect more (cases) in the next weeks. The (number) may start to go down by mid-March,” he said.

Janairo said that is because the measles virus has an incubation period of 10 days and those infected in the earlier weeks have just started to manifest symptoms, like high fever and skin rashes.

Churches, fast-food chains

The DOH earlier blamed the measles outbreak on the public “scare” triggered by controversies surrounding the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. The government stopped the distribution of the vaccine after the drug manufacturer admitted to possible side effects in those who have not yet had dengue.

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But Janairo said more people are now getting the measles vaccines as health offices step up their information drive and house-to-house visits, especially in the far-flung communities.

Aside from government centers, the DOH has also tapped churches and local governments to encourage parents to get their children inoculated, especially those between 6 and 59 months.

DOH-Calabarzon opened its first “fixed site” for measles vaccination on February 12 in a fast-food chain in Biñan City, which registered the highest number of cases in Laguna with 94 and three deaths from January 1 to February 9.

In this city, health officials held an emergency meeting on February 18 to map out better measures to stop the outbreak, for instance by dedicating a special ward in public hospitals for those infected with the measles virus.
Janairo said two doses of the measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective, while one dose is just about 93 percent effective. The DOH targets to vaccinate about 1.6 million children in the region, he added.

Struggling

According to data from DOH-Calabarzon, municipalities within the province are struggling to meet their target in vaccination, which is 90 percent of the eligible population. In the data, San Pedro City has been reporting a consistently low output from 2016 to 2018. The city covered only 39 percent of the population that is supposed to be vaccinated with MMR.

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According to Ryan Arboleda, resident epidemiologist at the San Pedro City Health Office, the city has always attained the 60 percent mark. “We are always on surveillance, especially since the outbreak was declared. We would go house-to-house in every barangay and would encourage everyone in the community to have their children vaccinated,” he told Laguna Now.

The city enforces the rule that each family should have an immunization card for their children to validate whether they are diligent in taking the shots or not. “This way, it will be easier for us to monitor our communities.” Arboleda explained.

Action plan

Santa Rosa City announced on Monday that it has created an action plan on measles. An information campaign is underway to convince residents, especially parents, of the importance of getting their children immunized.

In the next two months, the city and the DOH will step up the vaccination of kids 6-59 months in the communities (door-to-door) or in fixed posts; continued routine vaccination for babies 6-11 months; and school-based immunization for preschool and grades 1 to 6. Dr. Cunanan said the target number for vaccination this year is 52,544 children.

The city will monitor daily reports from barangays and hospitals. Officials will meet with private hospitals this this week for updates and consultation on the action plan. (Laguna Now)

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