381 people — mostly babies and children aged four and younger — have died in the Philippines this year in a measles outbreak.
Since the outbreak was announced in February, the Philippine Red Cross has been at the forefront to run vaccination campaigns in the most affected areas. Sometimes this means going from street to street and door to door equipped with the vaccines and information. Below is a breakdown of their day:
It is early morning, but already hot, and colourful umbrellas are useful as protection against the sun.
A noisy group of more than 30 volunteer nurses and other health personnel is organizing to go and hit the streets of the Market Area of Santa Rosa city in Laguna province. Soon you hear the volunteers shouting “Anybody at home?” as they divide and disappear to their designated quarters. Very often parents hesitate to vaccinate their children because they are afraid of the consequences.
“But after we talk with them, they often change their mind”, says Joemer Salamat, a Red Cross volunteer and coordinator for national immunization program in Santa Rosa city.
First to open their gate is Angelita Manepo, mother of Andy, 7. The booster for Andy’s measles vaccine is missing and she tells us she is afraid of the side-effects. What follows is a thorough explanation of pros and cons and in the end, Andy gets the booster on the spot. Doing vaccinations in the comfort of the home allows parents to be present.
“We trust the Red Cross”, says Ms. Manepo comforting her angry daughter.
One of the issues we face every day is suspicion due to lack of information on the vaccine. Ms Aida Kodalso skipped the booster vaccine for her twins Princess Kaye and Precious Kate Lanto for this exact reason. Today, we were able to answer her questions and complete the vaccine.
“I don’t trust them to be vaccinated at school. Like this is OK”, the mother says thanking the moving team for coming.
It has been difficult to recruit nurse volunteers for vaccinations, since most people have their own full-time jobs, says Frank Gray Sorromeo, Chapter Administrator in Laguna. By noon the sun is pounding down and it is too hot to continue our rounds.