Manila – At least 70 people, mostly children under the age of five, have died from measles in the Philippines since the start of the year, the Department of Health said Monday.
The death toll from January 1 to February 9 more than doubled compared to the same period last year, the department said.
A total of 4 302 cases of measles have been reported throughout the country, it added.
A total of 34% of the patients were between the ages of one and four, while 27% were less than 9 months old.
"Of the total deaths, ages ranged from one month to 31 years old," the department said. "Notably, 79% of those who died had no history of vaccination."
The department earlier declared an outbreak of measles in Manila, where 18 deaths have been recorded, as well as the Calabarzon region south of the capital, where 25 deaths have been documented.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has blamed the increase on low vaccination rates among children due to a scare triggered by a controversial programme to immunise children against dengue in 2017.
The scare focused on a vaccine created by French firm Sanofi Pasteur, which disclosed that the medicine posed risks to children who have not been infected by dengue before immunization.
Duque urged the public to restore their trust in vaccines that have long been proven to be effective to ensure protection from such diseases.
"I am quite sure that all of us sometime in our lives have been recipients of these vaccines which had protected us from various diseases," he said.