Health experts are alarmed at the widening gap on worldwide vaccine coverage. In the Philippines, the measles outbreak has affected 84 confirmed and suspected individuals, including 18 deaths as of Nov. 28.
The Department of Health reported that the majority of the cases are female ages 4 months to 40 years. Only 30 percent of these cases were evaluated by a physician while the rest were reported by the patients' relatives and local government officials.
The latest outbreak is concentrated in Sarangani Province, located in the southernmost region of the Philippines. The DoH said they vaccinated 49 affected children ages 6 months to 12 years following the outbreak. An additional 246 children also received the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine during the second community response.
"The DOH reacts swiftly during medical emergencies, such as suspected disease outbreaks in certain localities," the DOH said in a press release. "This is in response to its mandate of ensuring the safety of the public in times of emergencies to contain its effect and not to cause further stress to our fellowmen."
A Worldwide Problem
Disease modeling data showed that measles outbreak worldwide caused an estimated 110,000 deaths related to the disease. This is in spite of 17 years of scientific information supporting that measles immunization has saved more than 21 million lives.
"Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease," said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, deputy director general for Programmes at WHO.
Children and infants are the most vulnerable in contracting this fatal disease due to malnutrition and immature immune system. If not prevented or treated promptly, severe cases of measles can lead to encephalitis, pneumonia, ear infection, and permanent loss of vision.
Upsurge In Measles Outbreak
"The increase in measles is deeply concerning, but it is not surprising," said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
He cited anti-immunization campaigns abundant in Europe as well as failing health system in Venezuela and Africa as reasons for not reaching the targets on vaccinated communities.
The North and South America, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Europe suffer the highest upsurge of measles outbreak since 2017. Marginalized and poor communities and displaced families due to wars have the highest incidence of unvaccinated children.
WHO advised the high-risk population groups to seek temporary measles protection when visiting places with an outbreak. The first dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for children 12 to 15 months of age while the second dose may be given at ages 4 to 6 years. Adults can also be vaccinated if they have a weak immune response.