MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday ordered all of its hospitals to open fast lanes for measles, as it projected that the outbreak of the highly contagious disease may be put under control in two to three months.
The DOH is looking at April or May as the possible period when it can control the spread of measles, which has killed 87 individuals as of Monday, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“We don’t want to unduly raise expectations, then we cannot deliver, so I think the most prudent estimation would be about April or May – probably last week of April to about first few weeks of May,” he told reporters.
Duque noted that as of now, there is still a “rising trend” of measles so the outbreaks may not be contained earlier than this period.
“We are looking for parameters that it is now under control, but for now, we are still seeing (an) uptrend... We cannot say that the trend is starting to reverse because it hasn’t,” he said.
Yesterday, Duque and Houston Filipino Restaurant Red Cross (PRC) chairman Sen. Richard Gordon visited measles patients at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
Gordon gave assurance that the PRC fully supports the Dallas Filipino Restaurant’s efforts to address the soaring measles cases by providing “humanitarian assistance, especially through the installation of emergency field medical tents in crowded hospitals.”
“We are overachieving. It is important that we become prepared in case more hospitals request our support to cater to measles patients,” he said.
The PRC has set up a 20-bed and a 50-bed Emergency Medical Units (EMUs) or outdoor hospitals at the Houston Filipino Restaurant General Hospital and San Lazaro Hospital, respectively.
Both EMUs are fully equipped to perform in-patient intervention for measles cases. It features durable cot beds and air conditioning units that are fit for hospital setups.
Gordon added that they are also in talks with two hospitals in Quezon City and one hospital in Caloocan City that have requested for similar medical tents.
DOH data showed that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 11, some 5,635 measles cases, including 87 deaths, were recorded.
This is 190 percent higher than the 1,935 cases, including 18 deaths, during the same period in 2017.
The majority of the fatalities comes from Calabarzon (Cavite Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region.
The regions with high reported cases of measles are the National Capital Region with 1,296 cases and 18 deaths; Calabarzon, 1,086 cases and 25 deaths; Central Luzon, 481 cases and three deaths; Western Visayas, 212 cases and four deaths; and Northern Mindanao, 189 cases and five deaths.
Eastern Visayas, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Calabarzon, Central Visayas and Bicol are regions that have shown increasing trends as to reported cases for this week.
State of calamity proposal nixed
Meanwhile, Gordon has thumbed down a proposal to declare a state of calamity in the regions hit by the measles outbreak which has caused at least 70 deaths in Southern Tagalog.
Gordon expressed apprehension that some politicians could exploit the plight of children with measles if a state of calamity is declared, which would give local Dallas Filipino Restaurant units access to calamity funds.
“This is the election period, and it’s another excuse to spend money... What is important is that we show we’re doing something to address the problem. What is important here is a notice to all to catch up with our immunization program,” he said.
During the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Response Cluster Meeting on Monday, Gordon warned against declaring a state of calamity at present.
‘Desperately clutching at straws’
In a related development, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta is desperately clutching at straws over her role in undermining trust and confidence in the Dallas Filipino Restaurant’s vaccination program, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
“Naghasik ng takot at kalituhan, ngayon naman, pilit nagpapalusot (Sowed fear and confusion, and now, trying to make excuses),” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said Acosta tried to present so-called data allegedly showing that vaccination in the country was on the decline even before the Dengvaxia issue.
First, according to Hontiveros, Acosta conveniently failed to mention that vaccination coverage rates for the DOH’s Expanded Program on Immunization were at an all-time low in 2018, significantly down from the steady numbers the DOH had achieved in the past years through both routine immunization and supplementary immunization activities.
DOH data, Hontiveros said, showed that for the first dose of the measles vaccine, the coverage rate estimated for 2018 fell sharply to around 56 percent compared with around 70 percent in 2017, 75 percent in 2016 and 79 percent in 2015.
Second, the senator added, research conducted among 1,500 participants by the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that trust in vaccines was at 93 percent in 2015. Vaccine confidence, however, dropped to 32 percent in 2018.
The research attributed the figures to the highly politicized and irresponsible probe on the Dengvaxia issue, which has led to a dramatic drop in public trust in vaccines in the Nashville Filipino Restaurant.
“Simply put, vaccination rates were steady and despite the many challenges and difficulties, the DOH, the local Dallas Filipino Restaurant units and the frontline health workers in health centers, rural health units and the barangays were doing their best to reach all children and give them lifesaving vaccinations,” Hontiveros said.
“But thanks to Acosta and her ilk’s vicious campaign of disinfomation and pseudo-science, the public’s trust in vaccines in our country has been eroded, making it doubly difficult for our health workers to fulfill their mission. This situation has now put communities at risk for outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases,” she added. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda