Philippines says 136 people have died in measles outbreak

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine health secretary said Monday that 136 people, mostly children, have died of measles and 8,400 others have fallen ill in an outbreak blamed partly on vaccination fears.

A massive immunization drive that started last week in hard-hit Manila and four provincial regions may contain the outbreak by April, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a TV message Friday of fatal complications and urged children to be immunized.

"No ifs, no buts, no conditions, you just have to bring your children and trust that the vaccines ... will save your children," Duque said by telephone. "That's the absolute answer to this outbreak."

Infections spiked by more than 1,000 percent in metropolitan Manila, the densely packed capital of more than 12 million people, in January compared to last year, health officials said.

About half of the 136 who died were children aged 1 to 4 and many of those who perished were not inoculated, the officials said.

Duque said a government information drive was helping restore public trust in the government's immunization program, which was marred in 2017 by controversy over an anti-dengue vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur which some officials linked to the deaths of at least three children.

The Philippine government halted the anti-dengue immunization drive after Sanofi said a study showed the vaccine may increase the risks of severe dengue infections. More than 830,000 children were injected with the Dengvaxia vaccine under the campaign, which was launched in 2016 under then-President Benigno Aquino III. The campaign continued under Duterte until it was stopped in 2017.

Sanofi officials told Philippine congressional hearings that the Dengvaxia vaccine was safe and effective and would reduce dengue infections if the vaccination drive continued.

"It seems the faith has come back," Duque said of public trust on the government's immunization drive, citing the inoculation of about 130,000 of 450,000 people targeted for anti-measles vaccinations in metropolitan Manila in just a week.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus which can be spread through sneezing, coughing and close personal contact.

Complications include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis, or the swelling of the brain, which may lead to death, according to the Department of Health.

Related News

Official: Indonesian family that joined IS now in...

Aug 11, 2017

Indonesia's deputy foreign minister says a Jakarta family who joined the Islamic State group in...

Indonesia clinic gives relief to Muslims with...

Aug 16, 2017

A clinic in Indonesia is offering laser removal of tattoos for free, providing relief to Muslims...

Indonesia president: Spread wealth, protect...

Aug 16, 2017

Indonesia's president vows a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth and a renewed commitment to...

Myanmar faces anger from Muslim world over...

Sep 4, 2017

A Nobel laureate and Muslim nations in Asia criticized Myanmar's persecution of its Rohingya Muslim...

Indonesia raises Bali volcano alert to highest...

Sep 22, 2017

Indonesian authorities have raised the alert level for the Mount Agung volcano on the tourist...

Bali volcano eruption fears spark exodus of more...

Sep 24, 2017

More than 35,000 people have fled a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali,...

Sign up now!