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Legazpi taps barangays' aid in war vs. measles, polio

LEGAZPI CITY -- Preparations for the mass immunization of children against measles and polio are now in place here with all the city's 70 barangays tapped by the City Health Office (CHO) in the month-long campaign.

“We have mobilized the barangays in this campaign so that all children aged 0-59 months old in the city are given measles-rubella (MR) and oral polio vaccines (OPV) to be conducted by the CHO from September 1-30 this year under the auspices of the Department of Health (DOH),” Dr. Fulbert Gillego, the city health officer, on Monday said.

The mass immunization will include the giving of free MR vaccine to children aged nine months to 59 months as part of the DOH’s “Goodbye Tigdas” campaign, and OPV to children aged zero to 59 months.

Gillego clarified that the DOH has added OPV to the MR nationwide mass immunization program this year in order to protect the population from the wild polio virus while preventing the transmission of measles and rubella in all parts of the Philippines.

The Philippines has enjoyed a polio-free status since 2000 when the Western Pacific Region was certified to be under such status.

The country also experienced a significant reduction in measles cases due to the measles mass immunization in 2011 and the rubella transmission in 2012.

The spread of measles cases, however, returned in 2013, leading to some significant outbreaks.

In Bicol, at least 10 children died of measles from January 1 to April 11 this year, records of the DOH’s regional Center for Health and Development (CHD) based in Daraga, Albay said.

Last year, DOH recorded 156 suspected measles cases, 29 of which were laboratory-confirmed, forcing the agency to declare an outbreak in Bicol.

Measles, according to Gillego, is a viral disease that is highly communicable as it transmits through droplets and spreads from person to person through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.

It is a treatable but deadly deadly due to complications such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, blindness, otitis media and encephalitis, if not treated immediately.

Gillego said on the other hand that polio is a crippling and potentially fatal disease. It is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs.

Among those paralyzed, five to 10 percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized, Gillego said.

The CHO, he said, expects in the entire city a total of around 10,000 children within the target age brackets into the mass immunization drive.

Earlier, city Mayor Noel Rosal has directed Barangay Oro City chair and Liga ng mga Barangay-city chapter president Joseph Philip Lee to task all village chieftains in the fielding of their respective Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) for the conduct of house-to-house inventory of target children and informing parents of the immunization program.

To avoid overcrowding, Rosal said, every sitio or purok of each barangay will be given a date of schedule in their respective barangay health centers which will conduct the immunization from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

All barangays in the city have their health centers which will serve as immunization posts. These are to be manned by health personnel on a schedule basis, he said.

Mobile immunization teams are also to be fielded--mobilizing, checking and immunizing children door-to-door as needed in bigger barangays, Rosal said, adding that he has also called on parents to extend their full cooperation to this campaign.

In his report to Rosal on Monday, Lee said BHWs of each barangays have already completed their preparations and just awaiting schedules of immunization for each sitio, which they will relay to all parents of target children.

According to Rosal, the city government started its preparations for this mass immunization drive as early as last July to ensure sufficient lead time for micro planning, orientation and preparation and make a comprehensive social mobilization plan, including media and communication materials.

The local government has also put in place quality micro plans for every barangay to ensure that no children are missed.

“We have also assembled different agencies and organizations like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Liga ng mga Barangay and Legazpi Jaycess, among others, into helping the CHO in this campaign,” Rosal said.(PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

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