Vaccines for Yolanda victims

DOH, WHO launch mass vaccination campaign to prevent outbreak of diseases in typhoon-affected areas

By MA. CRISITINA C. ARAYATA

“To prevent more people from dying, vaccination is a powerful tool,” emphasized Dr. Sigrun Roesel, medical officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in a press conference where WHO, together with Department of Health (DOH) officially launched the mass vaccination campaign to prevent outbreaks among Yolanda survivors.

According to health secretary Enrique Ona, about a million kids will benefit from the said campaign, which aims to protect them from vaccine, preventable diseases. This time, however, there will be no age restriction as previous nationwide vaccination campaign only covered children under five years old.

The government targets areas that were hardest hit by Yolanda, from evacuation centers in Tacloban to receiving centers in Cebu, where evacuees are finding temporary shelter. Children under five were vaccinated versus polio and measles, and were given vitamin A drops to boost their immune system.

Sec. Ona noted that foods and vitamins are among the other needs, and also noted they are looking at the health needs of the entire population. He cited as an example, that they are monitoring the number of moms expecting to give birth.

“We make sure that hospital care is given to women who would need to give birth, even via CS [caesarian section] procedure,” remarked the health chief. About 24,000 babies are expected to be born in affected areas over the next month.

“Our system is shaken, but not broken,” noted Sec. Ona, adding that through the help of partners, vaccinations have been relaunched at a vital time.

WHO and DOH worked to finalize the plans and procurement of all necessary vaccines and supplies, including the set-up of immunization stations. About 20 volunteer nurses were deployed during the third week of November to support local health workers.

WHO also worked with partners to arrange the delivery of vaccines using gas-powered fridges, freezers, vaccine cases, cold boxes, and ice packs. USAID, for instance, sent six solar-powered refrigerators to Tacloban.

Aids continue to pour

Sec. Ona said that as of November 22, 59 DOH teams have been deployed. There are 53 foreign teams, where about 30 percent of them (local and foreign volunteers) came on their own. In Tacloban alone, there are 27 local health teams and 22 foreign teams.

As of press time, DOH has sent another 600 folding beds, 200 tents, 40 “DOH” tents (which could fit two families), 164 bigger tents, and three generators.

Sec. Ona mentioned that several hundreds of generators were donated by foreign partners and a good number of the amount spent for the vaccines came also from them.

Problems and damages

In the same press conference, Dr. Julie Hall, WHO country representative, revealed that migration is a big issue now, as there are thousands of residents in Tacloban. But she said that DOH and the city health offices are stepping up to welcome these displaced residents.

Dr. Hall also said that complete data gathering there is difficult due to extensive damages, and there’s a need to address high risk non-communicable diseases.

Meanwhile, Sec. Ona reported that as of November 22, the total cost of damaged public health facilities was estimated at PhP 4 billion broken down as follows: 833 barangay health units at PhP 1.3 billion; 235 rural health units at PhP 973 million; 81 hospitals at PhP 1.8 billion, and regional offices at PhP 82 million.

VitalSigns Issue 58 Vol. 2, December 1-31, 2013