DOH: Vaccination initiatives to focus on most vulnerable sectors

The Department of Health (DOH) focuses its vaccination initiatives on the country’s most vulnerable sectors to protect them from the threats of the fast spreading pertussis or whooping cough.

Reports said, however, that free booster shots for children aged 5 and above, adolescents, adults, and pregnant women are not available in health centers.

“In a situation with limited resources, the DOH is choosing to protect the most vulnerable first and is open to exploring ways to make access to the vaccines easier for the other population groups,” the DOH said in a statement. It said a total of 568 pertussis cases with 40 deaths were recorded as of March 16. About 393 of the cases are below one year old.

“Choosing to focus vaccination efforts on the youngest (as early as 6 weeks of age) and with a multi-purpose vaccine (e.g., pentavalent which protects not just against pertussis but also diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenza B) gives multivalent protection to this age group and as they grow older,” it added.

The DOH said pertussis can be treated with antibiotics and may last four to 14 days. Aside from vaccination, pertussis infection can also be mitigated by one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and through regular and proper handwashing.

Pertussis starts as a mild cough and cold that lasts about two weeks, and is followed by paroxysms or fits of coughing which lasts up to six weeks.

DOH Undersecretary Eric Tayag earlier said up to 1 million vaccines to be procured through the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund are expected to arrive in June yet.

He said more than PHP8 billion has been allocated for the procurement of all types of vaccines “for the Filipino people.”

Former DOH secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said vaccine hesitancy is the primary reason behind the rising cases of pertussis, and the resurgence of measles and polio cases in the country.

Garin noted that vaccine coverage fell from 98% to roughly 30%. She said the current administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. should not be blamed for the lapses of the previous leaders of the DOH. She urged the public to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of pertussis.