WITH the measles death toll reaching 136 since January 1, the Anakalusugan party-list challenged the Department of Health to account for how it spent its P7.43 billion budget for its immunization program last year.
“The DoH spent all of its budget last year for immunization. But by its own admission, its immunization rate in 2018 was only at 39 percent. This means more than 2 million children did not get measles vaccination,” Anakalusugan party-list nominee Mike Defensor said.
“DoH also had an advertising budget of P634 million last year. They cannot keep on invoking the vaccination scare brought about by the Dengvaxia mess. They should have used the budget to mount a massive information campaign to encourage parents to have their kids vaccinated. Klarong klaro na may pagkukulang ang DoH,” he added.
Anakalusugan nominee Darlo Ginete said it was impossible for the health department to have missed the trend of the increasing number of measles cases.
“In 2018, DoH reported a total number of 18,407 measles cases. Compared to only 2,428 cases in 2017, last year’s figure represents a nearly 800 percent increase in measles cases,” he said.
“How could they have not seen that trend? Why are they scrambling only now to raise awareness on the importance of the vaccination program when the numbers were glaringly clear as early as 2018? Nagkukumahog kung kailan ang dami nang namatay,” Ginete added.
The government has already declared a measles outbreak in the National Capital Region and in several regions across the country, with over 8,000 cases recorded since January 1.
Of the total number of deaths recorded this year, 40 percent or about 54 deaths were children aged four years old and below.
Measles, which is a vaccine-preventable disease, may cause complications such as pneumonia and diarrhea and can lead to death if left untreated.
Immunization and Vitamin A supplementation for 9-month old children remain the best defenses against measles.
The World Health Organization has warned that if the low immunization rate was not addressed, the Philippines is also in danger of seeing a reemergence of diseases such as polio.
“We are very concerned about the situation because there are many cases of measles that could have been avoided if we had achieved higher vaccination coverage,” said WHO country representative Gundo Weiler.