Infectious disease specialist warns more outbreaks as vaccination rates drop

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Other disease outbreaks are more likely to arise as the country experiences drop in vaccination rates, according to a specialist.

The Depart of Health (DOH) earlier declared dengue and measles outbreak and just last week, it also raised a polio epidemic as the disease came back in the country after 19 years. 

“We’re already getting reports of chickenpox, mumps, pertussis. Measles is just the most transmissible, a big indicator that vaccine rates are down,” Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, infectious disease specialist, said on ANC’s Early Edition Thursday.

“And we know it’s not just polio, these are all combination vaccines. We already are below the threshold for protection for a lot of diseases.”

In recent years, the average vaccination rate in the Philippines was 70%, but this dropped to 40% last year. Authorities said that part of the decline is due to public distrust since the Dengvaxia controversy

Salvana, who is also the Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines-Manila’s National Institute of Health, suggested that the government must have an intensified education campaign regarding vaccination to fight the anti-immunization movement. 

“The easiest way to understand how it works is to understand how many deaths it prevents. 2.5 million deaths per year prevented is a huge number,” he said.

“Compared to the alternative, the benefit far outweighs the risk,” Salvana added.

First polio case is vaccine-derived polio virus type 2

The health department said the first polio case reported in the recent polio outbreak was a polio virus type 2 derived from vaccine. 

Moreover, Salvana said the virus mutated from the vaccine is “an indicator that vaccine rates in the Philippines are really going down precipitously.”

“The oral polio vaccine is a live vaccine that contains all 3 types but it’s a weakened form. This has been a very successful vaccine to the point we’ve eliminated wild type,” Salvana said.

“The drawback is if you have low vaccination rates in the community then the weakened type can continue circulating in the community. If everybody in the community got the vaccine, that wouldn’t happen.”

In addition, Salvana mentioned that the country should get a 95% vaccination rate to prevent the spread of polio. 

“Polio is very very contagious so if you have lowered immunity then it can spread very fast,” he added.

“We need about 95% immunity just to maintain what we call a herd immunity.”

In the meantime, the government has controlled the measles epidemic while dengue outbreak “started to plateau” even as it is expected to continue until November since the country is dengue hyperendemic.

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