By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) will study further the possible implications of a “no vaccination, no enrolment” policy in schools that is being pushed by the Department of Health (DOH).
This was disclosed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones who said that she recently met with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at the DepEd Central Office to outline immediate course of action to address measles outbreak involving learners. DOH, the DepEd Chief said, was “suggesting to make vaccination mandatory like no vaccination, no enrollment.”
Citing a DOH explanation, Briones said that children who are not vaccinated, but are allowed to enroll to schools are considered “a risk.”
However, she explained that the DepEd will have to “study” this proposal further. “We have to look at the human rights aspect and what the Constitution says,” she explained.
Briones noted that while the DepEd remains open to idea of the proposed “no vaccination, no enrollment” policy, she believed that there were other means to address the problem.
“Maybe we should think of other ways to convince parents that measles vaccination do not harm a learner,” she said.
DepEd and DOH will also strengthen its campaign that vaccination is safe. “The campaign is we want to inform the parents and the children about the fear on vaccination,” Briones said. Both departments work together to implement the school-based immunization program.
However, with the Dengvaxia controversy, Briones noted that “parents were the ones who are afraid.”
“If they learn that there’s a doctor in the school, they are frightened because of the previous experience in Dengvaxia,” Briones said. “What we need to do is to make the parents understand that the risk in measles vaccination is not, perhaps as feared that as of Dengvaxia,” she added.
In November 2017, the controversy on the anti-dengue vaccine “Dengvaxia” erupted after French drug based vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur issued a statement citing that its “product poses higher risks to people without prior dengue infection.” In SY 2016-2017, DepEd included in its expanded School-Based Immunization (SBI) the vaccination for dengue virus.
As such, the DepEd and DOH have agreed to carry out initiatives that will focus on data gathering, monitoring, and providing assistance to affected learners and their parents.
Briones shared that officials of DepEd and the DOH met last February 12 to discuss possible arrangements to help address the measles outbreak.
“We have signed key arrangements with DOH pertaining to exchange of information [and] we are working together if there’s an outbreak [in a certain area],” she explained.
Prior to its meeting with DOH, DepEd also outlined its commitments for measles outbreak response with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) wherein it agreed to develop consent form together with DOH; gather data on how many school children are affected with measles; and coordinate with the Health Center staff for absent pupils and without consent during vaccination so they can be followed-up even those opted to be vaccinated by private practitioner.
Based on the key arrangements signed by DepEd and DOH, the Education Department committed to come up with a measles “evaluation form” to categorize children as vaccinated, doubtful, or not vaccinated. Another initiative is for DepEd to help “verify with school records and vaccination cards.”
DepEd also agreed to “review and look into strengthening the implementation” of Executive Order No. 663 of 2007 and EO 82 of 2012 or “Implementing the national commitment for “bakuna ang una sa sanggol at ina”, attaining world health organization’s goals to eliminate measles and neonatal tetanus, eradicate polio, control hepatitis b and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” and “Operationalizing the practical guide for national crisis managers and the national crisis management core manual; establishing national and local crisis management organizations; and providing funds therefor,” respectively.
Briones noted that DepEd’s Health Division is “coordinating very closely with DOH” and is also helping in “monitoring and arranging the reporting system.” She noted that the initial commitments to address the measles outbreak focus on accessibility of data, information and assistance because both departments need each other. “We need them to keep our children healthy and they need us because we have the data of the students,” she added.
As of February 20, data from the DOH showed that there are already 11,459 measles cases – including 189 deaths reported across the country.