If you have been following my blog, I posted last November 2018 that the next big Philippine epidemic will be Measles. Measles is a highly contagious disease. You only need one patient to infect 12 others in a poorly ventilated room. The infection can happen for only a single minute of exposure to droplets. This virulence is the reason why the measles vaccination is being pushed by public health authorities. However, Dengvaxia was born and all Philippines has gone to the dogs.
People refused all things branded with the letters D-O-H. This included maintenance medicines, deworming tablets and of course, vaccines. Filipinos associated vaccines with death after lawyers forced to make "direct" correlation between the Dengvaxia and the deaths of a few of the recipients. The issue went as far as uncovering a billion-peso graft case among all the high-profile individuals responsible. It went really bad that the integrity of public health care was at stake.
When I saw what was happening, I knew something had to be done despite the public sentiments against us. However, a lot of healthcare officials that I had the pleasure of talking to evaded their responsibility. They blamed the Dengvaxia too and opted to avoid direct conflict with their constituents. 2018 was also the year that 4 community physicians in different areas of the country were shot to death by unknown assailants. It was an ugly atmosphere and one of the things that I did was fight it. I told people in my community that there were no Olongapenos admitted nor ever got sick after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia. I faced the accusers and told them how best to address the matter. They were angry but in the end, they understood me.
But a lot of people refused to see me and even some are vocal about it on social media. The result was the lowest ever national immunization percentage. Whenever this happens, measles outbreaks occur. When the news of measles kept coming from all areas of the country, DOH Secretary kept denying an outbreak and treated them as isolated cases. But eventually, he had to declare. In Region III, Epidemiologist Jessie Fantone MD declared ahead of the Secretary. He knows that he will be reprimanded for that but he told me one good reason for risking his career over this one: "Better do something now, before it gets worse." By declaring the outbreak, he was able to mobilize the Measles Outbreak Response Immunization.
MORI ended the Outbreak
Along with other municipal health officers, Dr. Bustamante of Olongapo City did not declare an outbreak and treated the matter as if it was an isolated case. I could understand that as declaring such places the City on the map as a place to avoid for tourists and investors. However, it is what it is. The DOH Region 3 imposed on the City the MORI despite no outbreak declaration from the Mayor.
The ICS wasn't employed. There were no memo written. The whole MORI documentation were pieces of paper with names of vaccinees. Certificates of appreciation or participation were never given. Every maneuver was done through verbal orders. I felt the need for documentation so I put my camera to good use. The result was the video above which should have been longer had it not been for my kids accidentally formatting my smartphone.
Every effort was placed to immunize all children 0-5 years old wherever they lived in Olongapo City. We hiked dirt trails, climbed mountains and found places that are hidden from the urban eyes. The result was an abrupt stop of cases. MORI also ended the series of deaths from measles in the local hospital. While MORI was being conducted, a child per week died in the city hospital.
This was the second Olongapo measles outbreak
Learning from the 2014 and 2019 Measles Outbreak should be the top priority of the City Health Department. The Expanded Program of Immunization should be properly monitored and strictly implemented. Outreach programs should be funded. There are places in the City that requires a mother to walk more than one hour to reach the nearest health center for vaccination. This, I believe, is the biggest obstacle to having 100% fully immunized children. Sadly, I could only suggest, but I am not a decision maker nor the main influencer despite the fact that I work in the same health department. All I can do is pray for now. Someday, it might be a better Olongapo City with disease prevention as top public health priority.
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