October 17 ------ A representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday urged the Philippines to ramp up childhood immunizations alongside the country’s response against COVID-19. In a message, UNICEF country representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said routine immunization of minors in the Philippines dropped to 62% in 2020 from 70% in 2015.
“What does this mean? It means that the number of children who are at risk of getting infected with deadly diseases has been growing over the years and it was made even worse by the pandemic,” Dendevnorov said. “This is worrying and demands urgent attention. We cannot let the country’s routine immunization coverage decrease any further. Otherwise, this can lead to an even greater crisis, which we cannot afford to have,” she added.
Dendevnorov said the diversion of resources to the country’s COVID-19 response, disruptions in delivery of immunization services, and disruption in transport services may have affected the childhood vaccination rate. “With disruptions in transport services and lockdown measures in some communities, parents could not take their children to the health centers or were afraid to do so because of the fear of getting infected with COVID-19,” she said. Department of Health (DOH) director Beverly Ho said the government seeks to vaccinate 1.1 million infants nationwide and four million school-aged children.
Dendevnorov called on parents to vaccinate their children as well as local government units to ramp up their support immunization services. She also asked healthcare workers to sustain their efforts. The DOH earlier held its Community-Based and Catch-Up Routine Immunization in the Caloocan Central Elementary School where children aged 0 to 23 months, 6 to 7 years old, and 12 to 13 years old were inoculated against vaccine-preventable diseases.