MANILA (DPA) - Filipino parents were urged on Saturday (Feb 9) to immunise their children against measles amid an outbreak that has killed more than 20 children in the Philippines since the start of the year.
Julia Rees, of Unicef Philippines, said routine immunisation coverage in the country was only at 55 per cent, despite the fact that the measles vaccine was available for free in government facilities.
"The measles vaccine is safe and effective, and had been successfully used in the Philippines for more than 40 years," she said.
"I urge parents and communities to take their children to the health centre to be immunised," she added. "Measles in children is deadly and can cause long-term complications and disabilities."
According to Unicef estimates, about 2.5 million children under five years old are not vaccinated for measles.
The Department of Health has declared a measles outbreak in the capital, Manila, and other regions after recording a sharp increase in the number of cases in January.
In Manila alone, the number of patients with measles rose to 441 as of Jan 26, up from 36 in 2018. There were at least five deaths reported in Manila, it added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has blamed the increase on low vaccination rates among children due to a scare triggered by a controversial programme to immunise children against dengue in 2017.
The scare focused on a vaccine created by French firm Sanofi Pasteur, which disclosed that the medicine posed risks to children who have not been infected by dengue before immunisation.