DOH focuses vax efforts vs. pertussis on most vulnerable

2024 April 1

VACCINATION. A health center worker shows the pentavalent vaccine in Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City on March 22, 2024. The Department of Health on Monday (April 1) said it would prioritize protection of the vulnerable population against pertussis or whooping cough.

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it would prioritize the protection of the vulnerable population against pertussis or whooping cough.

The DOH made this remark amid reports 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 statement read.

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 said.

The DOH said pertussis can be treated with antibiotics and may last four to 14 days.

Apart from vaccination, it can be prevented by covering coughs and sneezes, 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.

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

Vaccine hesitancy

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

“Itong mga nangyayari (Whatever is happening) during the current administration is actually an offshoot of some mistakes committed during the previous administration. So siyempre kapag denimonized mo iyong isang bakuna at iyong mga pekeng eksperto ay mamamayagpag, mako-confuse iyong tao (So if you demonize a vaccine and let fake experts prevail, the public will be confused),” Garin said in a press conference at the House of Representatives.

Garin said vaccine coverage fell from 98 percent to roughly 30 percent.

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.

Garin urged the public to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of pertussis.

“Pertussis kills and vaccination saves lives,” she said.

Ma. Teresa Montemayor (PNA)