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DOH, WHO, UNICEF to conduct nationwide measles campaign starting October 26

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Joint Media Release

17 September 2020——The Department of Health, supported by WHO and UNICEF, will conduct the nationwide measles and polio supplemental immunization campaign starting October 26 this year. In the Philippines, an estimated 2.4M children under the age of five are susceptible for measles. Measles or tigdas is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Among those who are not immune, up to 9 out of 10 people exposed to the measles virus will contract the disease

The nationwide Measles Rubella-Oral Polio Vaccine Supplemental Immunization campaign will be rolled out in two phases. Phase 1 will be conducted from 26 October to 25 November 2020 in Mindanao Regions, CAR, I, II, IV-B and V. Phase 2 will be conducted in February 2021 in Visayas Regions, NCR, III and IV-A. DOH is conducting the campaign for children under five years old— around 9.4M children for the measles-rubella vaccine and 6.9M children for the oral polio vaccine.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a high-quality immunization campaign is urgently needed to stop measles transmission and possible outbreaks. We encourage parents and caregivers to have their children immunized. The measles vaccine is safe, effective and free. To protect against COVID-19 infections, all health care workers have been trained and provided with Personal Protective Equipment,” Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque says.

In 2020, pockets of measles outbreaks are being reported in the Philippines. As of August 2020, there are around 3,500 reported measles cases with 36 deaths. Most of the cases are among children under five years old.

Measles is a dangerous and fatal disease, with complications that can include severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear and eye complications, encephalitis or swelling of the brain, or permanent disability. There is no specific treatment for measles. The only reliable protection from measles is vaccination.

“While measles is highly contagious, it is also a preventable disease. We must not lose the decades of progress we have achieved in immunizing and protecting Filipino children, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measles vaccine is safe and has been in use for 50 years. The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks, saving an estimated 2-3 million lives worldwide every year,” WHO Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe says.

As a result of immunization challenges before and during the pandemic, too many children are missing out on routine immunization in the Philippines. Among the reasons for the low coverage are fears of contracting COVID-19, a constrained health system and rapidly spreading misinformation on vaccination.

“We are at an especially challenging time when immunization for children is being threatened. All of us must do our part in ensuring children in our family are immunized, and that we provide the correct information to parents, community members and among our peers. COVID-19 is a challenge and a chance to reflect on what needs to change so that Filipino children can survive and thrive,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov says.

WHO and UNICEF are fully committed to supporting the Philippine government in the fight against measles. WHO and UNICEF support the DOH in vaccine procurement and delivery, development of immunization guidelines and communication materials, and building the capacity of DOH staff nationwide to plan and ensure that all eligible children are protected through safe and effective vaccines for measles, rubella and polio.

For more information, contact:

Carlos Joshua Lazaro, Media Relations Unit, Department of Health, mrudoh2020@gmail.com, +63 905 763 1184 Jun Ryan Orbina, Communications Officer for the Expanded Programme on Immunization, WHO Philippines, orbinaj@who.int, +639064386312 Niko Wieland, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Philippines, nmwieland@unicef.org, +63 917 867 8366 Marge Francia, Communication Officer, UNICEF Philippines, mfrancia@unicef.org, +63 917 858 9447