Doctor Explains Why Families Should Immunize Their Children Now
This year, the Philippines saw one of its worst years in terms of disease control, further highlighting the importance of vaccination, especially for children. Dr. Ruben Macapinlac, pediatrics specialist, explains why.
“Children are most vulnerable to diseases, especially the most serious ones, because their immunity during their first year of life is still under development,” said Macapinlac. In most deaths cited in cases of measles, dengue, and polio, majority are children. “These diseases can be easily prevented through vaccination.”
According to Macapinlac, there are serious and specific diseases to which children are vulnerable, such as measles, polio, dengue, and diphtheria, which is also the reason why they pose the greatest threats.
“These diseases are precisely the reasons why vaccines were created. Vaccines aid children’s relatively weak immune systems to speed up their bodies’ development of protection against these deadly diseases,” said Macapinlac.
Vaccine hesitancy among the public is very high
According to the Department of Health, the Philippines has one of the lowest vaccination coverage for polio, which stands at 66 percent, way below the international standard of 95 percent. Macapinlac thinks that massive public misinformation seriously affected Filipinos’ trust in vaccines, resulting in very high vaccine hesitancy among the public. Vaccine hesitancy is the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or have your children vaccinated.
“I think the reason why there is very high vaccine hesitancy among the public now is because of the massive misinformation campaign in 2017 about the Dengvaxia issue,” said Macapinlac. “False reports were peddled, which frightened people and gave them the general idea that all vaccines are unsafe. Vaccines remain the safest and most effective way of preventing these diseases.”
“Children are most vulnerable to diseases, especially the most serious ones, because their immunity during their first year of life is still under development. They need to be vaccinated.”
-Dr. Ruben Macapinlac
He is right. In a study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, it was revealed that Filipinos’ trust in vaccines plummeted from 93 percent in 2015 to just 32 percent in 2018 after the Dengvaxia scare.
“Do not depend on our herd immunity. Have your children vaccinated.”
“The immunization program here in the Philippines is free and easily accessible. I very strongly advise parents to have their children immunized and not just rely on the protection of herd immunity,” said Macapinlac.
Herd immunity is a population’s resistance to the spread of diseases, achieved through a very high vaccination coverage among the population. It works by interrupting chains of infection when a large portion of the population is vaccinated. As a result, unvaccinated members of the community are protected by the “herd” because the herd is immune.
“Herd immunity reduces the risk of transferring specific infectious diseases,” said Macapinlac. “We still advise parents to immunize their children and not just depend on 'herd immunity' protection.
“Mumps and pertussis are very rare and unlikely to cause epidemics”
Asked about the chances of mumps and pertussis emerging as epidemics, Macapinlac admits that it is unlikely, but possible. “Actually, we physicians are always prepared in managing and treating these diseases. Mumps and pertussis can still be seen in the clinical setting but it is very rare,” said Macapinlac.
There is one other infectious disease that we should be cautious of. According to Macapinlac, chickenpox is more difficult to prevent because it is easily transmitted through particles in the air inhaled by the patient. You can catch this disease simply by entering the room of an infected person.
When is the best time to vaccinate children?
According to Macapinlac, children should be vaccinated even at the time of birth, but it should follow a strict schedule. In a report by CNN Philippines, it was revealed that the caretakers of the 5-year-old boy who contracted polio did not follow the prescribed schedule of vaccination, leading to the child’s illness.
Below is the recommended schedule of vaccination for children.