Binay urges gov’t to boost vax drive for kids

April 27, 2023 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 189 views

SENATOR Nancy Binay on Thursday called on the health department and local government units (LGUs) to come up with strategies and life-saving interventions to reduce the number of children who have not received any routine vaccine.

According to Binay, targeting zero-dose children and improving the routine “patak” immunization coverage in barangay and school levels can be the critical step in reaching out to the unvaccinated and vulnerable young population.

“Sobrang nakakabahala ang balita ng UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). Sa ngayon, parang isang milyong bata ang ‘at risk and unprotected’ dahil wala sila ni isang bakuna. And with the resurgence of many other diseases plus the new Covid variants, talagang government has to step up efforts (to improve) our immunization status. The DOH (Department of Health) may also need to revamp its ‘patak’ strategies and place stable machinery to ensure the vaccination of one million children in two years max,” she said.

UNICEF recently ranked the Philippines as the 5th “zero-dose” country in the world and the second highest in East Asia and the Pacific Region, with one million children missing out on routine vaccinations. By operational definition, “zero-dose” children are those who lack the first dose of the trivalent diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine.

“Marami pa ring underserved communities, at ang critical link ng surveillance chain eh ang mga barangay. Para may katuwang ang DOH, the LGUs must likewise scale up its response via information campaign to help the public’s vaccine confidence and deal with the level of community resistance against having their children vaccinated,” Binay pointed out.

The senator said that both national and local governments must continue their routine immunization programs to address barriers and avert child survival crisis.

“We understand that the pandemic sidetracked the routine yet essential health services, thereby leaving many children at risk. Pero hindi natin puwedeng idahilan ang pandemic fatigue dahil meron tayong malaking accountability sa mga bata. Landing 5th in the world, and 2nd in East Asia definitely reflects the cost of inaction on zero-dose children. Ang commitment ng gobyerno ay ang maabot ang vaccine equity.

But the lack of access to essential vaccines and health services further exposes our children to multiple diseases that may lead to deaths. We need an ‘exit plan.’ We need a strong and renewed commitment—a political will, with intensified efforts from the national and local governments to fill the immunity gap by establishing sustainable service delivery mechanisms through primary health care platforms,” Binay stressed.

Aside from the high rate of vaccine hesitancy among parents of minors, the pandemic has diverted the focus and resources from routine health services, leaving millions more of children at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. UNICEF maintained that health inequities brought about by COVID-19, the number of zero-dose children is bound to increase further, leading to a rise in the number of child deaths and disease outbreaks.

“Ayaw na nating lumobo pa ang bilang ng zero-dose children. On our part in the Senate, we are committed [to] investing in public health. We cannot allow our children to be victims of an immunization standstill. We made sure that the DOH has the means to address and respond to such cases and problems and dispense the necessary interventions, especially in this vulnerable cohort,” Binay said, noting that the pandemic has deepened pre-existing public health issues impacting children.