School immunization

• CHO targets to protect children against five diseases

Amid the Dengvaxia scare, the City Health Office is set to launch a school-based immunization program today.

The immunization aims to protect the children from diphtheria, tetanus, measles, rubella, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

To start at Magallanes Elementary School today, the vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and rubella will be administered to Grade 1 and Grade 7 students.

The HPV vaccine will be given to Grade 4 female students, aging 9 to 13 years old.

Dr. Julinda Acosta, the CHO’s technical division chief, said they are hopeful that parents will allow them to immunize the children.

Acosta admitted that there is a notable decrease on the level of acceptance among parents following the Dengvaxia incident.

“After the Dengvaxia experience, (parents) were quite hesitant,” Acosta told reporters during the weekly iSpeak press conference at City Hall yesterday. “That’s why we did a reorientation to bring back the confidence and trust in our program.”

Last Monday, the CHO team conducted an orientation to parents and guardians at the Magallanes Elementary School to address their apprehension and respond to inquiries.

Parents were initially apprehensive on the side effects of the vaccination. But after the orientation, some parents were amenable to it as health officials assured that the vaccines are safe.
The vaccines are “safe… and very effective,” Acosta stressed.

She said the children really need the dose as protection from the diseases.

“During infancy, (children) will receive primary doses of vaccination. But during a long period of time, the protection level of these primary vaccinations will dwindle down,” said Acosta. “So we need booster doses to ensure higher level of immunizable diseases,” she added.

“If you give booster doses to children who have received primary doses during infancy, the level of protection will go up,” the doctor said.

Acosta said that once a pregnant mother is infected by a Rubella infection during the first trimester, it can cause severe birth defects.

“Rubella, German measles in layman’s term, has a 90% transmission to the fetus and might kill the fetus, cause abortion, miscarriage, still birth, birth defects, congenital cataracts, and brain and heart defects,” she emphasized.

HPV shots
Meanwhile, she also noted HPV as a major cause of cervical cancer in women. In the Philippines, about 6,670 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually causing the death of 12 Filipino women every day.

Acosta also emphasized that cervical cancer treatment costs as much as P150,000 to P500,000, hence, it needs to be prevented.

“HPV vaccination, when given to the age group before sexual exposure, poses a higher protection against cervical cancer,” Acosta said.

Before giving the HPV to the children aged 12 to 13, they will have a pregnancy screen because the vaccine could not be administered to pregnant women.

“We have high rate of teenage pregnancy so we really screen before giving the vaccines,” Acosta said.
Any of the vaccines will only be given to students whose parents give consent, Acosta said, stressing that no students will be forced to be immunized.

Attacking the myths
Assailing rumors that the vaccines have side effects such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Acosta said humans need to be immunized to avoid viruses.

She also lambasted the misconception that immunization limits the length of life. In fact, she said it prolongs life.

“In 2000, we were certified to be polio-free. Now, the program of the DOH is to be measles-free because this disease has been eliminated in other countries, yet, we (still have) outbreak because of the low coverage of immunization among children,” Acosta said.

After the immunization at Magallanes Elementary School today, the CHO will conduct the drive at Ma-a National High School and Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Sr. Central Elementary School within this month.

The CHO targets 66,492—33,193 Grade 1 students and 33,299 Grade 7 students–for the diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and rubella.

At least 15,873 Grade 4 students are also set for HPV vaccinations.

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