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Expanded Program on Immunization Introduces Rotavirus Vaccine & Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

The Philippine government is combating vaccine-preventable diseases through the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) of the Department of Health.

According to World Health Organization, vaccination is one of the most effective intervention for public health because they protect the vulnerable population on a large scale and longer term.

Expanded Program on Immunization Goal

Expanded Program on Immunization image courtesy of richland2.org
Expanded Program on Immunization image courtesy of richland2.org

“By vaccinating your targeted population, you build up their capability to develop their immunological defense against illnesses. You let them fight off diseases on their own,” said Dr. Jonathan Lim, chair of ASVAC.

EPI was initially aimed to eliminate tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles.

But eventually, the program was expanded to include rotavirus last year, making the Philippines the first country to immunize against the disease in SouthEast Asia.

This initially benefitted some 700,000 infants from the 5.2 million families identified as poorest of the poor by the Department of Social Welfare and Development through its National Household Targeting System.

“We may be setting a trend here by being the first to vaccinate our children against rotavirus in this region. Other nations may follow,” says Dr. Lulu Bravo, president of the Immunization Partners in Asia Pacific (IPAP).

Expanded Program on Immunization is Strengthened by IPAP and ASVAC

IPAP is spearheading the 4th Asian Vaccine Congress (ASVAC 2013) of the Immunization Partners in Asia Pacific (IPAP) that will be held at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Cebu City from June 12 to 14.

According to Bravo, rotavirus kills half of the 3,500 Filipino children below five years old who die from severe diarrhea annually.

Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis. It is manifested by severe watery diarrhea, oftentimes with fever, vomiting and abdominal pain[1].

It can lead to dehydration among babies and young children. Worldwide, more than a million children below five years old are killed by the disease[2].

In 2011, the DOH had also included pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) in the EPI, for senior citizens.

This year, the DOH will include pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the program to be given to children the same time the other vaccines are given.

The goal is to immunize initially the 300,000 infants from the 5.2 million indigent families from pneumococcal infections.

Expanded Program on Immunization image courtesy of salon.com
Expanded Program on Immunization image courtesy of salon.com

Pneumococal diseases include meningitis, blood infection and pneumonia, the leading killer of Filipino children regardless of their socio-economic class.

Infected individuals may suffer from a combination of high fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain. [3].

Dr. Bravo says pneumococcal infections kill some 4,500 Filipino children below five years old every year.

“These are killer diseases that victimize our children,” Dr. Bravo pointed out. “They come in the form of pneumococcal infections and diarrhea.”

“It’s about time we place vaccination at the forefront of our children’s health. It’s now time to vaccinate,” she says.

Expanded Program on Immunization To Keep Children Healthy Today and Onward

With the inclusion of rotavirus and PCV vaccines in the DOH’s vaccination program, the Philippines is now in a better position to keep Filipino children healthy not only now but in the years to come.

Also in the pipeline is the anti-measles vaccination for close to 200,000 students in Grade 7 to 10 in public schools in some priority areas.

This immunization campaign by Expanded Program on Immunization will start by the third quarter of the year for one month.

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