A ranking official of the Department of Health on Wednesday urged the public to have their children vaccinated with anti-measles vaccines.
The call came following a four-fold jump in measles cases in the Philippines which went from 4,000 in 2017 to 21,000 cases last year.
The World Health Organization earlier warned the number of measles cases in the Philippines increased by an alarming 367 percent in the first 11 months of 2018.
Health undersecretary Eric Domingo said the rise in measles cases in the country is alarming.
“This is really a bit alarming. We really need to intensify, catch up with our vaccination levels here in the Philippines,” Domingo said.
He explained that measles, which is caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract, can be passed through direct contact and through the air.
Its complications include severe diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness and even death.
“Unvaccinated children aged five and below are at highest risk of the disease,” Domingo said.
There are at least 248 children and 21 adults being treated for measles in the San Lazaro Hospital, known facility for infectious diseases.
The hospital on Monday night alone recorded seven deaths, three of which were due to complications from measles.
Last week, nine children reportedly died in one day in the same hospital due to measles.
Lulu Bravo, of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, earlier had said the rise in measles cases is due to declining trust in vaccines.
“This is disturbing,” she said, stressing the drop was mainly due to political factors, among other reasons, but did not elaborate.
“Filipinos are becoming scientifically illiterate,” she said.
No deaths from measles were reported in 2014, she said, adding that immunization efforts in many countries had already stamped out the disease, like smallpox.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta, meanwhile, said she should not be blamed for the low immunization turnout amid a vaccine scare following deaths supposedly linked to Dengvaxia.
“It’s not the job of PAO to promote vaccination. I am not questioning other vaccines,” she said.
Domingo, meanwhile stressed that measles cases may rise during its peak season in summer between March and April.