DOH’s Urgent Procurement of 5-in-1 Vaccines for Pertussis Amid Outbreaks

‘THAT HURTS’ A health worker injects a pentavalent vaccine on an infant at a health center in Quezon City on Friday, March 22, 2024. The Quezon City government declared an outbreak of pertussis or whooping cough after logging 23 cases, including four deaths, mostly infants from 22 to 60 days old. PHOTO BY ISMAEL DE JUAN
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Furthermore, Dr. Tayag emphasized the importance of increasing vaccine coverage to prevent the further spread of pertussis. He explained that low vaccine coverage leaves a significant portion of the population vulnerable to the disease, making it easier for outbreaks to occur. The DOH is working closely with local government units and health centers to intensify their vaccination campaigns and reach as many individuals as possible.
To expedite the procurement process, the DOH is collaborating with various pharmaceutical companies to ensure a stable and sufficient supply of 5-in-1 vaccines. This particular vaccine is crucial in the fight against pertussis as it provides protection not only against whooping cough but also against four other diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). By procuring these vaccines promptly, the DOH aims to prevent any further complications and reduce the number of cases reported in the affected regions.
In addition to the procurement of vaccines, the DOH is also focusing on raising public awareness about the importance of vaccination. Through public information campaigns, they aim to educate parents and caregivers about the benefits of immunization and dispel any misconceptions or fears surrounding vaccines. They are working closely with healthcare professionals, community leaders, and schools to ensure that accurate and reliable information reaches the public.
The DOH is also strengthening its surveillance and monitoring systems to detect and respond to any potential outbreaks promptly. By closely monitoring the number of reported cases and conducting thorough investigations, they can identify high-risk areas and implement targeted interventions. This proactive approach will enable them to prevent the further spread of pertussis and protect vulnerable populations, especially infants and young children who are most at risk.
In conclusion, the DOH is taking decisive action to address the reported cases of pertussis in the Philippines. By procuring an adequate supply of 5-in-1 vaccines, increasing vaccine coverage, raising public awareness, and strengthening surveillance systems, they are working towards controlling the outbreak and protecting the health of the population. It is crucial for individuals to cooperate with the DOH’s efforts and ensure that they and their loved ones receive the necessary vaccinations to prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease.

Understanding Pertussis and its Symptoms

Pertussis, known as “ubong-dalahit” or “tuspirina” in Filipino, is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that manifests as influenza-like symptoms, including mild fever, colds, and coughs. The characteristic feature of pertussis is a persistent hacking cough that develops after seven to ten days of exposure. This cough is often accompanied by a “whooping” sound, which is where the infection gets its common name, “whooping cough”.

Pertussis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which is transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The bacteria then attach to the lining of the respiratory tract, releasing toxins that damage the cilia, tiny hair-like structures that help move mucus and foreign particles out of the airways. This damage leads to inflammation and increased mucus production, resulting in the characteristic cough.

While antibiotics can be used to treat pertussis, prevention through vaccination is considered the best approach. The pertussis vaccine is typically administered as part of the routine childhood immunization schedule. It is given in combination with vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus, known as the DTaP vaccine. Booster doses are recommended during adolescence and adulthood to maintain immunity.

Dr. Tayag, the Director of the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health, advised healthcare professionals to be vigilant in identifying pertussis symptoms in patients seeking medical attention. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent the further spread of the infection. In addition to the characteristic cough, other symptoms of pertussis may include runny nose, sneezing, red and watery eyes, and fatigue. In infants, the cough may be less pronounced, but they may experience episodes of apnea, a temporary pause in breathing.

It is important to note that pertussis can be particularly severe in infants and young children, as their immune systems are still developing. Complications can include pneumonia, ear infections, seizures, and even death. Therefore, it is essential for parents and caregivers to ensure that their children receive the recommended vaccinations on time to protect against pertussis.

Immunization plays a crucial role in safeguarding public health by preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The impact of COVID-19 on immunization rates has been a cause for concern, as the pandemic has disrupted routine healthcare services and led to a decline in vaccination rates globally. Dr. Tayag’s emphasis on the importance of immunization against pertussis highlights the vulnerability of certain populations, particularly infants, who are more susceptible to severe complications from the disease.

The outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, can be attributed to the decline in vaccination rates, which has been further exacerbated by the fear and mistrust surrounding the dengvaxia vaccine controversy. This controversy has had a significant impact on the overall vaccination coverage in the Philippines, leading to a decrease in rates from the previously achieved 75% to 85% range to around 60% to 65%. The decline in coverage is alarming, considering the progress made during the “golden years” of immunization under former Health Secretary Juan Flavier’s tenure.

During the Oplan Alis Disease program, the Philippines maintained immunization coverage above 90%, reflecting a robust commitment to public health. However, the dengvaxia issue has eroded public trust in vaccines, leading to hesitancy among mothers and a subsequent drop in vaccination rates. Recognizing the need to restore confidence in immunization, the Department of Health (DOH) has set a target of achieving at least 90% coverage, aiming to surpass the previous achievements and regain the country’s prominence in immunization.

While the current records may not fully capture the private sector’s efforts in conducting vaccination drives, the DOH is actively collaborating with organizations such as the Philippine Pediatric Society to ensure a comprehensive approach. This coordinated effort aims to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and restore immunization coverage to pre-pandemic levels. By leveraging partnerships and implementing targeted strategies, the DOH is determined to overcome the obstacles and protect vulnerable populations from vaccine-preventable diseases.

While the number of reported pertussis cases in the Philippines is alarming, it is important to note that these figures represent only the cases that have been reported and confirmed. The actual number of cases may be higher, as not all individuals with symptoms seek medical attention or undergo laboratory testing.

The high number of cases in Metro Manila is not surprising, considering its dense population and the ease of transmission in crowded areas. However, the spread of pertussis to other regions, such as Calabarzon and Central Visayas, is concerning. This indicates that the disease is not limited to one specific area and has the potential to affect a larger population.

The Department of Health (DOH) plays a crucial role in monitoring the situation and providing support to the affected regions. This includes ensuring that healthcare facilities have the necessary resources to diagnose and treat pertussis cases, as well as conducting public awareness campaigns to educate the population about the importance of immunization.

Immunization is the most effective way to prevent pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases. The DOH, in collaboration with local health units, implements routine immunization programs to ensure high vaccination coverage across the country. It is important for parents and caregivers to follow the recommended immunization schedule for their children and to seek vaccination for themselves as well.

In addition to immunization, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing pertussis cases. Healthcare professionals should be vigilant in recognizing the symptoms of pertussis and conducting appropriate laboratory testing. Timely treatment with antibiotics can help reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent complications.

While the current situation may be concerning, it is important for the public to remain calm and informed. Following the guidance of healthcare professionals, practicing good hygiene, and staying updated on the latest developments can help individuals protect themselves and their communities from pertussis.

Source: The Manila Times

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