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Western Visayas gears up for DOH’s routine immunization activities

ILOILO CITY (PIA) -- The Department of Health Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH WV CHD) recently led a multi-sectoral coordination meeting for its bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) and routine immunization Phase 2 activity starting this February.

According to DOH medical officer Dr. Jose Martin Atienza, National Immunization Program (NIP) coordinator of the DOH WV CHD, this catch-up immunization activity is in line with the “Sulong Kalusugan: Health Sector Strategy (HSS) 2023-2028” focusing on disease prevention and protection from future pandemics.

“Vaccination is a primary health program that centers on enabling healthy Filipinos by good health-seeking behavior realizing the need to be protected from the disease and protecting from health risks which are vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Atienza, noting that vaccination is crucial in breaking the chain of infection among children.

The vaccination program’s target is to achieve herd immunity which could be realized when 95 percent target population receives the sufficient vaccines needed to prevent the spread of diseases like measles, rubella, polio, Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Pertussis, Tetanus, Influenza, and COVID-19, among others.

Atienza stressed that a fully-immunized child (FIC) means that a child has completely received a dose of BCG, three doses of pentavalent vaccine, three doses of polio vaccine, and two doses of measles-containing vaccine (MCV) in the first year of life.

However, compared to the 95% target, he noted that the region fell short of the FIC coverage last year by 61.23% which would translate to the risk of children still accessing the aforementioned vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD).

Medical Officer III Dr. Jose Martin Atienza, National Immunization Program (NIP) coordinator of the DOH WV CHD, administers a measles-rubella vaccine on a child as part of the 1st Regional World Immunization Week Celebration and MR-bOPV Supplemental Immunization Activity Kick-Off held in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental last year. (File photo by DOH WV CHD)

Atienza explained that the decrease in the FIC coverage in the previous years was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with health workers burdened by several workloads in administering both COVID-19 vaccines and routine immunization activities and the fear as well as of the parents to have their children vaccinated due to possible contact of the disease.

During last year’s conduct of the Measles-Rubella (MR) and OPV supplemental immunization activity, Western Visayas ranked fourth in terms of MR accomplishment and 13th in OPV coverage among 17 regions in the country.

DOH WV CHD's National Immunization Program (NIP) coordinator Dr. Jose Martin Atienza presents the accomplishments of the MR-OPV supplemental immunization activity last and the targets for this year's catch up immunization activity. (PIA Region VI photo)

“This translates to up to 400,000 children [in the region] remaining to be not given a supplemental dose of bOPV and we want to get back at those children that were not sufficiently given bOPV vaccines,” Atienza added.

For this intensive catch-up immunization activity, the health department targeted to cover at least 95% of infants and children aged 0-23 months in the region to complete the three doses of bOPV, and at least 95% of all 24-59 months old children are to be given one dose of bOPV regardless of their polio immunization status.

According to Atienza, DOH’s partner agencies and LGUs are enjoined to

incorporate in their health services the conduct of the immunization activity this year thereby making these vaccines more accessible to all communities.

Meanwhile, Health Program Officer II Enrika Marie Cabusbusan of the DOH 6 Health Promotion Unit pointed out several misconceptions about vaccination and clarified that it remains the safest and cheapest way of protecting children against deadly diseases and the prevention of possible outbreaks due to lack of immunity.

To note, this intensive catch-up immunization activity will run for six months beginning this February to July of this year. (AAL/FRG/PIA6)

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Franz Remar Garion

Region 6

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