Vaccination has made the greatest contribution to global health of any human intervention apart from the introduction of clean water and sanitation. Mortality from smallpox and measles was massive in the pre-vaccination period with up to a half of the population dying from the former during epidemics and measles was only a little less lethal in susceptible populations. Development of vaccines against more complex infections, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, has been challenging and achievements so far have been modest.
Due to the recent measles outbreak Pediatric doctors all over the country have come together to launch an advocacy aimed at restoring confidence in the globally accepted and effective protocol of childhood vaccination. Identifying vaccine hesitancy as a key factor in this outbreak, the movement seeks to engage in activities that will highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines provided by the public program.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), a sub-specialty organization of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), has launched the “Save The Future” campaign during its annual convention held on February 20 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila in Ortigas, Quezon City. An online community has also been created at www.facebook.com/SaveTheFuturePH in order to help drive a digital information, education and communication campaign.
The movement brings together the members of PIDSP as well as the other sub-specialty societies of the Philippine Pediatric Society. The PPS, established in 1947, is the oldest medical society of physicians caring for newborns, infants, children and adolescents in the Philippines.
“Addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy within our individual and collective capacities is a matter of professional as well as personal responsibility being Filipino citizens,” stated PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim. “Our movement is a public-private partnership that aims to mobilize our society members to cooperate and collaborate with government stakeholders in making the most of our available vaccine resources and to deploy them properly and effectively.”
In a recent joint letter to its member-doctors and the DOH, the PPS and PIDSP issued an “urgent plea” to “immunize eligible children against vaccine-preventable diseases.” This primarily involves the routine immunization schedule for infants that vaccinates against tuberculosis, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, polio, Hemophilus influenza B, hepatitis B and measles from birth to the first year of life.
The organizations reminded pediatricians to ensure up-to-date immunization of their patients as part of the primary responsibility of their individual practices. In particular response to the current measles outbreak, PPS and PIDSP also now recommend pediatricians to administer the first dose of measles vaccine to infants starting at the age of 6 months instead of the usual 9 months, as recommended in the country’s Childhood Immunization Schedule. The schedule is determined annually by both societies along with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV).
PPS and PIDSP also urged members to collaborate and coordinate with their respective city, municipal or provincial health offices in organizing community-based regular vaccine mission activities to help administer free measles and other vaccines that are available to qualified children, adolescents and even adults.
“We need to take urgent action in order to preserve the advances we have made in the past decades in terms of curing children of fatal diseases and steadily decreasing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths in the Filipino population,” said PPS president Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian. “We are optimistic that all of us working together will effectively address this healthcare crisis that has gripped our country,” she added.