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Measles outbreak

Cong Corrales . 

AT 21 years old, I was a relatively young parent. But at that age, I already knew vaccinations are critical to newborns and onwards with booster shots. I never once harbored the thought that vaccinations could be a medical racket or just a way for the doctor to bill you some more.

Of course, it helped that my mother was a nurse. Let me reiterate that she was a government nurse, connected with the Department of Health. She explained the importance of vaccinations to us early.

That’s why I’m appalled at the news of a measles outbreak, first, in the National Capital Region, then as the weekend winded to a close, the other parts of the country followed.

In its latest bulletin, Reliefweb.int noted that cases of measles in the Philippines have been increasing over the past several years. There have been outbreaks, but they have been mainly isolated, the group added. Reliefweb.int is a humanitarian information source on the Internet that specializes in digital service for Unite Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

“On 6 February 2019, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a “measles outbreak” in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 3 (Central Luzon). On the 7 February 2019, DOH announced that the measles outbreak had spread to more areas in Luzon and Visayas in Calabarzon, Region 6 (Western Visayas) and Region 7 (Central Visayas). Unconfirmed reports from DOH report around 72 deaths among more than 2,000 cases of measles nationwide,” the bulletin reads in part.

Diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, and measles are all preventable diseases. Inoculation for diseases has been available in the Philippines since 1886, for crying out loud. It was brought to our shores in gratitude for erecting a statue of Spanish King Carlos IV in front of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. It was to be the first vaccination of Filipinos — it was for smallpox.

So, how do we deconstruct how these outbreaks happened? Don’t we have a national immunization program?

On Facebook, there have been a lot of theories. There’s the one blaming Public Attorney’s Office Persida Acosta for supposedly scaring parents against vaccinations by tweeting last year that “vaccines are bio weapons.” This was at the height of the Denvanxia brouhaha which was politicized to the hilt. As expected, many social media influencers of this administration jumped on it like flies to a turd.

It’s easy to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Acosta. But that is equally lazy, too. I was tempted to blame her, by the way, as you can see in some of my Facebook posts.

However, if you look at the timeline of the outbreaks vis-a-vis the Denvanxia scare, you will see that it doesn’t entirely add up.

Reliefweb.int’s bulletin shows that from 2017 to 2018, measles cases rose across the country by as much as 550 percent above the normal average.

“Poor immunization coverage is broadly agreed by health specialists to be the root cause of the outbreak. The [World Health Organization] has reported that immunization rates were well below the target of 95 percent and decreasing,” Reliefweb.int’s bulletin reads.

I figure that there is so much blame to go around. Maybe we, parents should also look at ourselves. Yes, there was the crusading Acosta out to steer us back to the stone age. Yes, there is also the shortcomings of the health department, which could only do so much with the share of the national budget it has, year in and year out. But we, parents, should know better.

It is ironic that in this supposed information age, many of us still choose ignorance. I say, if the state doesn’t have free vaccinations in our part of the country then let’s buy the vaccines ourselves.

I don’t buy the we-are-poor excuse. My neighbors, here Consolacion, have a budget for betting for swertres, thirce a day. Most still, go about their day playing card games of tong-its, chikicha, and piyat-piyat. Don’t tell me you cannot spare for your child’s vaccination.

What I’m saying is that we can blame everybody else during any crises that comes across our lives but we should not leave out ourselves. I’m not saying we should blame ourselves for this preventable medical crisis. I’m saying we should not be quick in blaming other people for the things that we could have done ourselves.

So, get off your behind and get your children vaccinated. There’s no conspiracy behind it. It has been a staple medical intervention for centuries. Pfft.

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