In Manila, Parents Continue to Trust in the Immunization Programme

At the heart of Sampaloc in the capital city of Manila is the Earnshaw Health Center, a health facility that caters to 36,000 residents in 26 barangays (villages). Every day, around 70 patients troop to the Earnshaw Health Center to avail of the free primary health services provided by the city, which includes outpatient treatment for a variety of diseases such as hypertension and tuberculosis, maternal and child care, immunization and family planning.

Sampaloc residents avail of the free health care services at the Earnshaw Health Center.
WHO/F. Tanggol

Here we meet Marilyn, a mother of three children which includes Marion Leshrac, a three-month old infant. The health facility is conveniently located near her home so it is her go-to for health services for her family.

"The health center is very near. We just walk going here," explains Marilyn. "The staff here are great and they are nice. I can get free medicines here, check-ups if we are sick, and immunization for my children."

Marilyn is one of the dozens of parents queueing up at the Earnshaw Health Center to have their children vaccinated as part of the routine immunization programme of the Department of Health. For today, three-month old Marion will be getting the last dose of the pentavalent vaccine to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, pertussis, pneumonia, and meningitis.

Despite the efforts of the health workers in cities and municipalities in the Philippines, the country has a relatively low immunization coverage that ranges to 60-70 percent every year. To exacerbate the situation, Dr Rosario Margate, the physician-administrator of the Earnshaw Health Center has noticed a decrease of people coming in for vaccination compared to last year because of the dengue vaccine controversy in the Philippines. Metro Manila is one of the regions where the dengue vaccine was introduced as part of a special school-based immunization programme in 2016.

"There really has been a decline since Dengvaxia, maybe around 20-30 percent decline," estimates Dr Margate.

"Last week, I encountered a grandmother who was very worried for her grandchild who was vaccinated. I talked to her and said it was not Dengvaxia but instead the tried and tested vaccines that we have. You know, we just have to assure them that there’s no problem. The grandmother left the health center satisfied," Dr Margate adds.

WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr Gundo Weiler talks with Earnshaw Health Center Physician-Administrator Dr Rosario Margate (centre) and Manila City Health Office Noncommunicable Diseases Programme Coordinator Dr Dolores Manese (left).
WHO/F. Tanggol

"We have to emphasize that the dengue vaccine controversy is a separate issue compared to the routine immunization programme of the Department of Health," explains World Health Organization Representative in the Philippines Dr Gundo Weiler. "Vaccination is one of most cost-effective public health intervention available for free to Filipinos. We continue to encourage parents and guardians to have their children immunized under the routine immunization programme so that your children are protected from preventable diseases such as measles, hepatitis, polio, and tetanus."

Vaccines save the lives of around two to three million children around the world every year. The vaccines under the routine immunization programme have been introduced in the Philippines since the 1970s and have been proven to be safe and effective. WHO provides technical support to the Department of Health to boost immunization coverage rates through strengthened monitoring and disease surveillance and outbreak response if needed.

For Marilyn, she does not have any uncertainty when it comes to the routine vaccines and continues to have trust in the immunization programme of the Philippines.

"I just thought to myself, these vaccines are different from Dengvaxia. So we just continue with it and will visit at least once every month," says Marilyn. She plans to keep on visiting the health facility until the Marion has completed his immunization schedule.

WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr Gundo Weiler talks to Marilyn at the Earnshaw Health Center.
WHO/F. Tanggol

Parents and guardians can follow the below immunization schedule set by the Department of Health. Visit the nearest health facility for complete doses of these vaccines for children one year old and below.

Bakuna Sakit na Maiiwasan Pagka-Panganak 1 ½ Buwan 2 ½ Buwan 3 ½ Buwan 9 Buwan 1 Taon
BCG Tuberkulosis (TB)
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B
Pentavalent Vaccine (DPT-Hep B-HiB) Dipterya, Tetano, Hepa B, Pertussis, Pulmonya, Meningitis
Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) Polio
Inactivated Polio Vaccine (OPV) Polio
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) Pulmonya, Meningitis
Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine (MMR) Tigdas, Beke, German Measles