Philippines measles outbreak is deadliest yet as vaccine scepticism spurs disease comebackBMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l739 (Published 14 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l739
- Owen Dyer
- Montreal, Canada
Seventy people, most of them children, have died of measles in the Philippines since the start of 2019,1 the country’s health ministry has said, as many as were killed by the virus in the entire World Health Organization European region in all of 2018.2
There were over 18 000 cases of measles in the Philippines in 2018, compared with about 2400 in 2017. Measles vaccination rates fell from a 2014 high of 88% to 73% in 2017, then plummeted to about 55% last year.
The sharp drop came in the wake of a political battle over Sanofi’s dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which was discontinued in the Philippines last year over safety concerns despite the company’s protests, as politicians traded blame.3
Lotta Sylwander, Unicef representative in the Philippines, said the agency was “deeply concerned” about the outbreak, adding that about 2.5 million children under five are not vaccinated against measles. “There has been a notable unwillingness on the part of parents to vaccinate their children on time,” she said.
The country’s Epidemiology Bureau said that 79% of those killed by measles …