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Filipinos have a shared responsibility to ensure all children are immunized

On World Immunization Week, UNICEF highlights the role of the community to ensure the health of all children

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Joey Reyna
A boy gets vaccinated for measles-rubella during a mass immunization campaign in Region VIII, which UNICEF supported.

MANILA, 24 April 2018 – On the occasion of World Immunization Week (24-30 April), UNICEF in the Philippines draws attention to the importance and shared responsibility for vaccination to ensure all Filipino children grow up healthy and protected from preventable diseases. Health workers, national and local government officials, civil society, mothers, fathers, and community members have a role to play to ensure that Filipinos receive the right information on immunization, families are supported in overcoming barriers, and that children complete their vaccines.

Vaccines act as a shield that protects children, families, and communities and particularly the most vulnerable. Vaccines protect children against disease and death, saving up to three million lives every year. For the Philippines, vaccines also make economic sense. Vaccines prevent illness, freeing up precious resources to invest in strong health systems. Vaccination can also promote a stronger workforce and prevent losses in productivity.

But while many countries have dramatically increased immunization coverage, in the Philippines coverage is decreasing. While the Philippines eradicated polio in 2000 and eliminated Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus in 2017, we have fallen behind in routine immunization that protect children from diseases such as measles, diphtheria and hepatitis B. It’s time for urgent action.

In the Philippines the proportion of children aged 12-23 months who received all basic vaccinations dropped from 77 percent in 2013 to 70 percent in 2017, while the percentage of children with no vaccination rose from 4 percent in 2013 to 9 percent in 2017. Eighty percent (80%) of children received the first dose of measles vaccination, while only 47% received the second dose of vaccine preventing measles*. As a result, an outbreak this year resulted in more than 700 children contracting measles, a disease that can potentially be lethal to a small child. This could have been prevented with timely vaccines. Measles and other diseases can only be eliminated through collective action.

“Ensuring that children complete their vaccines is not the job of health workers alone. Government agencies, non-government and people’s organizations, civic-oriented groups, faith-based organizations, academe and other partners—we can all work together to reach out to families and persuade them that vaccines are safe and effective. We appeal to all parents and caregivers to ensure that their children are immunized according to schedule and encourage other families with children in their neighborhoods to do the same,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander says.

UNICEF works with the Department of Health to increase immunization coverage by helping strengthen routine immunization and improve processes to procure and distribute vaccines. UNICEF also helps at the barangay or village level to strengthen local governance mechanisms, create ordinances and health committees, improve data and monitoring, conduct training and communicate health messages effectively.

*Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and ICF. 2018. Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey 2017: Key Indicators. Quezon City, Philippines, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: PSA and ICF.



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