Vaccine confidence build-up and more staff needed to reach target

Speakers, reactors, and organizers of the 4th UPCPH - BEM webinar series on “Ensuring Action on Vaccine Preventable Diseases in the Now Normal”

 

More than 300 participants from government agencies, health facilities, and educational institutions across Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom attended the webinar, “Ensuring Action on Vaccine Preventable Diseases in the Now Normal” held on 24 March. This was the fourth webinar under the Public Health in the Time of COVID-19 and the Now Normal Webinar Series.

A joint webinar of the UP College of Public Health (UP CPH) and the British Embassy Manila, the forum was opened by Dr. Rebecca Shah, Political Counselor and Head of Prosperity Communications and Bilateral of British Embassy Manila, and Dr. Maria Margarita Lota (BSPH 1993), Professor and Chair of the CPH Department of Medical Microbiology (DMM).

Dr. Kim Tejano, Program Manager of the National Immunization Program of the Department of Health, pointed out that COVID-19 has compromised surveillance and the vaccination programs for other equally important vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). However, adaptive measures have been undertaken by the DOH such as intensified catch-up immunization, health promotion playbooks, and improving vaccine-preventable diseases’ surveillance.

Focusing on the next steps for VPDs in the new normal, the second speaker Dr. Lulu Bravo, a Professor Emeritus at the UP College of Medicine, presented data comparing COVID-19 impact and response among several Asian countries and showed how many were able to bounce back. The Philippines and Pakistan were unable to bounce back partly due to the overwhelmed health care system from other public health issues, including other VPDs. Dr. Bravo reiterated that vaccines are one of the most cost-effective measures for disease prevention which can also reduce the enormous burden to the healthcare system. She added that on top of the catch-up vaccination programs, building vaccine confidence should also be intensified.

The reactors were Prof. Misha Coleman, Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne and Public Health and Vaccination Manager for International SOS in Australia, and Dr. Aminodin Pamanay (MPH 2021), Municipal Health Officer of Matungao, Lanao Del Norte. Acknowledging that vaccines are one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, Prof. Coleman shared mechanisms such as mobile clinics where vaccinations are taken closer to the people and communities and a model that can increase uptake of vaccines. Also, drawing from ground experience, community health workers are being more recognized as having a unique position in the community in terms of public health promotion. Hence, they should be equipped with answers related to vaccines through continued education and training.

Dr. Pamanay shared his experiences with COVID-19 response along with other public health concerns in Lanao Del Norte. As in many other places in the country, much of the efforts were diverted to COVID-19, compromising other pressing health issues such as VPD surveillance. He stated that despite having catch-up immunization programs like house-to-house campaign, turnout was still low due to vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, there was really a need for increased manpower on the ground to reach target goals for immunization.

The webinar was moderated by Dr. John Robert Medina (BSPH 2011), Assistant Professor, CPH Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB). The overall coordination was a joint effort of the DMM and DEB and the BEM-UP CPH Webinar Series Project Team led by Dr. Emerito Jose A. Faraon (BSPH 1989), Associate Professor and Communications Officer

Jhaki Mendoza and Dr. Emerito Jose Faraon

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Published in the UP Manila Healthscape (Issue No. 38, April 2022)