DOH, WHO, UNICEF launch “Chikiting Ligtas” – Measles, Rubella, and Polio National Supplemental Immunization Campaign
Joint press release
Manila, Philippines (27 April 2023) – In observation of World Immunization Week (WIW) this April 2023, the Department of Health (DOH), together with developmental partners United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), today launched Chikiting Ligtas 2023: Join the Big Catch Up, Magpabakuna para sa Healthy Pilipinas!, a nationwide supplemental immunization campaign, to vaccinate children against measles, rubella, and polio.
According to UNICEF, around 67 million children globally missed out entirely or partially on routine immunization between 2019 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This ranks the Philippines second (2nd) to the highest number of children with zero doses in East Asia and the Pacific Region, and fourth (4th) in the world. From January 1 to March 18, 2023, the DOH has already recorded 225 cases, a 369 percent increase from the same period last year.
UNICEF’s flagship publication, the State of the World’s Children 2023: For Every Child, Vaccination, also revealed the sharp decline in public perception in the Philippines of the importance of vaccines for children, decreasing by 25 percent and registering one of the steepest declines from 55 countries studied.
“All children have a right to a bright and healthy future. We recognize the efforts of the DOH and partners to bring renewed energy to accelerate catch up and prevent future outbreaks. COVID-19 has shown us that collective and concerted action works. We must exercise that same vigor for children’s immunization to make sure that children in the Philippines do not get left behind,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.
For the Chikiting Ligtas campaign, DOH is mobilizing the full weight of its financial and human resources, allocating funds for Centers for Health Development’s hiring of vaccinators, risk communications and advocacy activities, and delivery of vaccines and other supplies. This support shall also extend to routine vaccinations until the end of the year.
As an aid to the campaign, the WHO and UNICEF support the Department by providing assistance in procuring vaccines, deploying additional health staff, engaging with communities to address hesitancy and misinformation, and building cold chain capacities, among others.
“We must act now to protect every child in the Philippines from vaccine-preventable diseases. The Immunization Agenda 2030 and the Big Catch-up present a unique opportunity to catch up on missed vaccinations and strengthen our immunization systems for future generations. We fully support the Department of Health's Chikiting Ligtas campaign and its supplemental immunization activities,” said Dr. Rui Paulo De Jesus, WHO Representative to the Philippines.
“We call on all local leaders, developmental partners, civil society organizations, and the wider public to join us in this critical effort to restore the protection of Filipino children against vaccine preventable diseases. Let us work together to ensure that no child is left behind and that every child in the Philippines has access to life-saving vaccines. Our appeal to families: your children’s health is too precious to leave to chance. Vaccines are free, safe, and effective in keeping them healthy. By keeping up to date with vaccines, you are giving your children a shot at a brighter future,” added Dr. De Jesus.
“One of the Department’s evergreen goals is to protect our children from vaccine preventable diseases and those include measles, rubella, and polio. As a measure to provide them protection, we shall continue to prioritize vaccination through programs such as Chikiting Ligtas 2023: Join the Big Catch Up, Magpabakuna para sa Healthy Pilipinas!, to reach our young Juan and Juanas anywhere in the country. This is also a time to renew public trust in the value of all vaccines and continue to build long-term support and awareness for immunization, as vaccines have proven to be critical in containing or limiting outbreaks of infectious diseases,” underscored DOH Officer-in-Charge Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.
About the Department of Health
The Department of Health (DOH) is the country's principal health agency, holding the over-all technical authority on health as a national health policy-maker and regulatory institution, and responsible in ensuring access to basic public health services through the provision of quality healthcare and the regulation of providers of health goods and services.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.
About the World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is working with the Philippines Department of Health and other sector agencies to ensure safe water for all through the development and implementation of water safety planning, strengthening systems and capacity for drinking-water quality surveillance and monitoring, and improvement of water, sanitation, and hygiene in health care facilities.