Why Immunizing Children Matters

Immunization is a proven way to prevent and eliminate life-threatening infectious diseases around the world. A person that has been vaccinated becomes immune or resistant to an infectious disease because vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to give optimal protection against infections.

As it prevents disease, disability and deaths, immunization also contributes to economic growth. During outbreaks, the public health system spends time tracing potential contacts, collecting and testing blood samples, engaging the public for awareness and dissemination of information, and organizing outbreak response and money for hospital treatments. Immunization helps remove the burden both from the health system and most especially from the poorest of families.

Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious disease; that’s why it’s critical to protect them through immunization – to give a healthy start into life.

Photo: WHO/J. Zepeda

‘Ligtas sa Tigdas at Polio’ nationwide mass child immunization campaign

This year the Philippines has embarked on a nationwide mass immunization activity for every child under the age of 5, for an opportunity to be protected against three highly infectious diseases: measles, rubella and polio.

Every child 9 months to below 5 years old is to receive one dose of the measles/rubella vaccine while every child aged 0 to below 5 years old is to get two drops of oral polio vaccine. Receiving repeated doses of the vaccines does not pose any danger to a child.

Photo: WHO/S. Roesel

Depending on the vaccine, more than one dose is needed to build high enough immunity to prevent disease and boost immunity that fades over time.

“Each vaccinated child helps to block and eliminate transmission of these viruses. Vaccination builds strong walls of defense against these diseases – reducing the risk of outbreaks occurring, decreases cases and eventually banishing these viruses altogether,” says Dr Julie Hall, WHO Representative in the Philippines.

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children across the world including the Philippines. One out of 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, approximately 1 out of 1,000 gets inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Each year, about 20 million people get measles worldwide and about 164,000, mostly children, die of the disease.

But measles vaccination activities have already resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide. The nationwide mass immunization campaign aims to bring measles in the country down to very low levels and move towards its elimination throughout the Philippines.

Photo: WHO/K. Feldon

Rubella on the other hand is generally mild in children but it has serious consequences in pregnant women causing fetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). There is no specific treatment for rubella but the disease is preventable by vaccination.

Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. Paralysis is lifelong and this disease can also result in death. Cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988 across the world but as long as polio exists somewhere, children everywhere need to be protected from this deadly disease. The mass immunization activity is supporting efforts to keep the Philippines polio-free.

“The most important part of the vaccination programme remains that the very young children get all the vaccines they need in order for them to have a healthy start in life,” says Dr Sigrun Roesel, WHO Philippines Team Lead for Expanded Programme for Immunization (EPI).

Photo: WHO/S. Roesel. A child shows his finger painted with indelible ink, indicating that he has been immunized against measles.

Led by the Department of Health, with the support of World Health Organization, UNICEF and other key partners, this month-long campaign aims to not only contribute to improving the health of children in the Philippines, but also to support regional and global efforts to eliminate measles, control rubella and create a world free from polio.

Photo: WHO/J. Zepeda

Reminder for parents:

  • Bring your children to the nearest health center to get them vaccinated during the nationwide immunization campaign which will continue until 10 October. Use this opportunity to give them extra protection against diseases.
  • Wherever you live, make sure that your child/ren are fully protected against measles – that means that they have received two doses of measles vaccine. For polio protection, a minimum of 3 doses is required.
  • Bring your children regularly for routine immunization so they can also receive the other vaccines in a timely fashion; your health worker can give you all the necessary information.
  • Vaccines and their ingredients are safe and tested, with their safety continually monitored. The vaccines are also studied to be administered together to protect your children.