Philippine measles epidemic tops 14,000 cases and still rising

A child receiving a measles vaccine from a Philippine Red Cross worker, in the Baseco slum area of Manila on Feb 16, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The number of cases of measles in the Philippines has exceeded more than 14,000 and the count is still rising even as the government steps up its campaign against a vaccine scare that was triggered by deaths allegedly caused by Dengvaxia, a vaccine against dengue.

The government recorded 14,938 cases and 238 deaths from measles as of Feb 28, Health Department Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a mobile phone text message, adding that "the number of cases is still rising".

"We are continuing with our intensive campaign to vaccinate the vulnerable unprotected children," Mr Domingo said.

The Philippines declared a measles outbreak in Manila early February as infections and fatalities from the highly contagious respiratory viral disease spiked.

Deaths due to measles escalated to 200 last year from about 50 in 2017 as the deaths allegedly caused by Dengvaxia, a vaccine against dengue that was given free by President Rodrigo Duterte's predecessor, sparked a scare and drove parents to shun the government's free immunisation drive.

The Philippines banned Dengvaxia in February and government prosecutors on Friday said they found probable cause to indict executives of Dengue-manufacturer Sanofi and government health officials for at least 10 deaths allegedly linked to the vaccine.

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