The Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nation’s Children’s Fund (Unicef), and other national and local authorities and groups gathered for a summit to boost child immunization rates in the Philippines.

In the “Closing the Immunization Gap” event on Aug. 17, participants discussed the needed reforms in the country’s immunization practices and policies, increasing investments in strengthening primary health care, key health system strengthening building blocks such as human resources and digitalization, deeper involvement of local chief executives, and intensifying communication activities, among others.

WHO Philippines representative Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus said the summit offered a “unique opportunity to review the country’s immunization program, learn from each other’s experiences, and develop a comprehensive plan addressing the challenges and enhancing immunization coverage for Filipino children.”

An assessment of the Philippine Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) published in Aug. 2022 revealed that the country has never reached its target of 95 percent basic vaccination coverage for children in the last 30 years.

The basic vaccination coverage includes Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG) vaccine, three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV), three doses of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT) vaccine, and one dose of measles vaccine.

The recorded highest basic vaccination coverage in the country was at 80 percent in 2016 while the lowest was at 65 percent in 2014. 

“Until all of us come together to mend the gaps in routine immunization coverage, children in the Philippines will remain at risk of contracting and dying from diseases we can prevent.” Unicef Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said. — Xander Lauren Cipriano