MANILA–The Department of Health (DOH) plans to increase the rate of immunization among babies in their first year of life up to 95 percent not only for this year but also in the coming years.
According to DOH spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, this target is highlighted with intensified campaign on awareness about the presence of vaccines in the health center which are essential to baby’s protection for the first year of his/her life.
“As of now DOH Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Ubial wants to raise this to 95 percent,” Tayag said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.
Tayag said this target is to counter the declining trend of immunization rate that was observed to have gone down to 65 percent (2016) from 80 percent in 2015.
Due to this decline, almost 25 percent or more than 400,000 newborn babies who are supposed to receive the vaccines had missed-out them.
“That decline was big and can affect other babies. Imagine if one of them will have measles, that can be transmitted to others as well (who were not immunized),” Tayag explained.
He said the decline can be attributed to several factors depending on each regions in the country.
“Each areas in the country has various reasons,” he said citing that different factors had also made some effects on the drop in immunization trend which needs to be raised again.
Some of the factors are the challenge on the availability of the new 5-in-1 vaccine; some old myths and wrong information on vaccine effectiveness; availability of vaccinators; election campaign in 2016, migration, peace and stability in conflict affected-areas; under-reporting, etc.
He said the delay on availability of the 5-in-1 vaccine or Pentavalent-Hib –that gives protection against five serious infections among babies in the health centers –In some period prompted some mothers to develop the idea of postponing the vaccination of their babies.
He explained that the delay was not in terms of lack of funding for 5-in-1 vaccine but on the slow procurement process which should be followed-up since the procurement for this type of vaccine was not the same with the previous ones (because unlike other vaccine its procurement did not overlapped each other).
Among the diseases that 5-in-1 vaccine protect babies from are diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis or whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemaphilus influenza type B (Hib).
Because some mothers who previously brought their babies to the health centers were told that it is not yet available or out of stock yet, then the tendency for them were to become reluctant in going back especially if going into a health center was a difficult task because it entails high transportation cost and may cause inconvenience to their daily activities and responsibilities in taking care of their children.
Regarding on the myths and wrong information, he said that such became a challenge also because there are still groups of non-believers for vaccine who spread wrong and unproven negative information that mislead some mothers that vaccine causes infertility, autism, among others.
The Health official added that this type of challenge is actually being address through information campaign that such were all lies and meant to discourage the parents.
“Election campaign in 2016 had an effect also because a lot of people focus their attention or were busy on the campaign period,” he said.
In terms of migration, he said that there is a “missed opportunity” because transfer of residence or movement from one place to another may cause loss of vaccination records and making it difficult to have a follow-up.
On the other hand, there is a challenge in conflict-affected areas because health workers and even the people finds it difficult to pursue immunization while there are some cultural minority groups who refuses immunization in some areas of the country.
Meanwhile, in an effort to reverse the decline or to recover from it, he said that DOH has launched a campaign program last April dubbed as “Baby Come Bak” (Back to Bakuna).
This can be watched in the health centers and even in the YouTube to convey the message to mothers that no matter how busy they are, accessing the vaccines in the health center which is vital to shield their babies against infectious diseases should be done by going back to the health centers which are provided for free by the DOH.
With this, he said local government units participation and strong cooperation is needed to make the campaign successful.
“Because LGUs have the list of the newborn babies… So its important that they will really be aggressive in informing their constituents that vaccines are in the health center and should be utilized,” he added