Manila, Feb 12 (IANS) At least 70 people, mostly children under four years of age, have been confirmed dead due to measles outbreak in the Philippines and the authorities are blaming vaccine hesitancy for the health crisis.
The deaths occurred since the beginning of the year but the Health Department in a statement on Monday said the outbreak intensified last week and over 4,300 people were taken ill with symptoms of measles - a very contagious disease transmitted through air, Efe news reported.
The authorities put five regions on alert, although the highest number of affected people were reported from Manila and its suburbs.
An intensive vaccination programme was launched for children in the National Capital Region to prevent further proliferation of the disease which infects respiratory system of its victim and can result in severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, blindness and even death.
"Regions with high reported cases are NCR (1,296 cases and 18 deaths) Calabarzon (1,086 cases and 25 deaths), Central Luzon (481 cases with 3 deaths), Western Visayas (212 cases and 4 deaths) and Northern Mindanao (189 cases and 2 deaths)," the Health Department said.
The outbreak of the disease was being attributed to the lack of vaccination among children in recent years. Around 2.5 million Filipino children under the age of five didn't receive the necessary immunization shots.
Many Philippine parents refused to vaccinate their children due to the scandal surrounding Dangvaxia, an anti-dengue vaccine which was used in the country between 2014 and 2017, until its manufacturer, the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, admitted that it carried adverse effects and the vaccinated people who contracted dengue for the first time suffered more severe effects.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III appealed to the public to repose their trust and confidence in immunization programmes.