The Philippine Government’s Department of Health is sounding the alarm, as measles outbreak sweeps through the country’s most populous city.
Measles is an extremely contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is spread through sneezing and coughing. Common symptoms include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and even encephalitis.
Francisco Duque III, Department of Health DOH secretary, said that so far, 136 people have died from the highly contagious disease.
Another 8,400 people have fallen ill from the measles. Duque places part of the blame on families forgoing vaccination amid fears of side effects.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spoke on national television, urging families to get immunized against the disease.
“No ifs, no buts, no conditions. You just have to bring your children and trust that the vaccines will save your children. That’s the absolute answer to this outbreak,” Duterte said.
Metro Manila is the Philippines’ most densely populated city, with over 12 million people. Infections rose over 1,000% in January, from the same period last year.
Half of the deaths were young children, with many not having received the measles vaccination.
The Philippine Government’s national immunization program is still recovering from a 2017 scandal, in which French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur’s dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia was blamed for the death of at least three children.
More than 830,000 Filipinos received the Dengvaxia vaccine. Sanofi Pasteur officials denied that the vaccine was unsafe, and that it would be effective in reducing the risk of being infected with dengue.
The Philippine Government discontinued the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine in 2017.
The DOH said that 130,000 Filipinos have already received measles vaccinations as a result of a stepped-up campaign by the Philippine Government.
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