A Call for Continued Immunization: Avoiding an Outbreak within a Pandemic


When the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) has seen an alarming decline in the vaccination rate in the country. It has actually reached an all-time low. Immunization prevent the spread of contagious and deadly diseases by boosting the body's natural immunity before you even acquire the disease. It is a very challenging time for us Filipinos. DOH and medical experts call for continued immunization because we could not afford an outbreak within a pandemic.

Is it safe to bring the children to a health facility for immunization?

Parents are cautious in bringing their children to a health facility for their scheduled immunization for fear of contacting COVID-19. This is evident in vaccination coverage drop during the first quarter of 2020. Only 7%  was recorded compared to the ideal 24% coverage in order to reach the 95% target by year-end. During the recent online kapihan of Samahang Plaridel, Dr. Silva mentioned that this is very low because of the disruption from both the supply and demand for immunization. 

The call for immunization is strongly aligned with the statements released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF which also highlighted the importance of continuing vaccination at this challenging time.said that the benefits of immunization clearly outweigh the risks at this time. 

“Don’t be afraid because children must get immunized. They are at higher risk of getting measles, polio, pneumonia and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” according to Dr. Lulu Bravo said, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination. 

“Let us all be reminded that first, if children and other vulnerable sectors are not vaccinated, they can get sick and can die from these vaccine-preventable diseases,” she adds.

Pneumonia: Killer disease among children

Silva shared that one of the vaccine-preventable diseases, pneumonia, remains the number one killer disease among children 5 years old and below. The tender for the child pneumococcal vaccine—between PCV 10 and PCV 13-- is currently being reviewed by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for comparability and cost effectiveness. 

Asked on the new evidence presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) saying that the two PCVs in the market are equally effective in protecting the children from pneumonia, Silva said: “When we did the cost effectiveness analysis, they are both cost effective. The price of PCV10 and PCV13, they fall on that range na cost effective sila pareho. But, of course, there is another benefit when we choose the PCV13 because it contains the three serotypes that are not found in PCV10 before. But now with the new evidence, this was now presented to National Immunization Committee and then it was brought up to the HTAC for further review and we are waiting for the review.”

The PCV tender is massive, which is even bigger than that of the controversial Dengvaxia procurement. 

“Currently, there is only one available pneumococcal conjugate vaccine available in the market (PCV 13). It is a very expensive vaccine and its eating up more than 60% of the budget of the national immunization program. Mahal talaga pag isang produkto lang ang nasa merkado, ” Silva said. 

The HTAC Review of the PCV vaccines is expected to be completed this June. 

Vaccine-preventable diseases

Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), said that like COVID-19, “each opponent virus has its own effective weapon of infecting vulnerable individuals, especially children which is why, vaccination is critical even during a pandemic.

“Sa ngayon, meron na tayong mabisang bala para sa tigdas, polio, tusperina, flu, pulmonya, pagtatae at iba pang mga sakit. So, labanan natin at sugpuin natin ito upang mapanatili nating malusog ang ating mga bata. Sama-sama, tulong-tulong tayong ihayag sa mga magulang kung gaano kahalaga ang magpabakuna.” (For now, we already have an effective defense weapon against measles, polio, pertussis, flu, pneumonia, diarrhea, and many other illnesses. We need to fight and beat these to ensure the health of our kids. We should all together make parents aware how important it is to get vaccinated.)

Doctors are embracing technology and are providing e-consultation services for their patients. There are pediatricians who advises parents to bring their children to the nearest doctor for scheduled immunization. Those who missed their schedule can do "catch up". In some areas, the health workers from the health centers do house to house visits to administer free immunization.