Is PH’s measles death toll rising from antivax misinformation?
What started out as a largely political rhetoric against the Aquino administration in the Philippines has led to a nationwide outbreak of measles, several years after President Rodrigo Duterte took his seat at the Palace. The Department of Health in 2017 suspended the use of Sanofi-Pasteur’s Dengvaxia vaccine, after the manufacturer cited possible higher risks of complications if the vaccine was applied to individuals who have not had been infected with the tropical disease dengue hemorrhagic virus.
The vaccine scare, which seems to be taking off everywhere, and not just in the Philippines has been correlated with the sharp increase in measles infections in the country. As of February this year, 203 have been recorded dead by measles infection, with many more cases springing up in different cities.
The cause? Non-vaccination of mostly children, as more and more parents become fearful of all types of vaccines, and not just the controversial dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia. More than 12,000 people have been infected nationwide, the highest record so far in many, many years as measles is regularly given to children younger than two.
According to the UN, 63% of the infected have not been vaccinated prior to infection, which led to more aggressive symptoms and ultimately, a worse time for patients. While vaccination rates have been declining through the years, the Dengvaxia scare is seen as one of the pivotal reasons why parents are not exerting sufficient effort to have their children vaccinated.
The growing anti-vaccine movement, which is strongest on Philippine social media, is causing further problems, warned the UN. Measles can be transmitted easily through droplet and direct contact with infected patients. Among the more alarming symptoms of the disease include pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, and in cases where the symptoms have become too severe, death.
The weak, elderly, and young are especially vulnerable to measles, which is why doctors continue their appeal to parents to have their children vaccinated. Measles vaccines are available in barangay health centers throughout the Philippines, as well as public health institutions and private clinics. The availability of the vaccine is high, which means there is no reason for children not to be vaccinated any time soon.