An estimated 3.7 million children under 5 years of age are at risk in the Philippines, following a measles outbreak that has already killed 286 people, the Red Cross warned on Thursday.
The children have never been vaccinated and have no protection against the highly contagious virus, which is still spreading in a number of areas in the Philippines, the Red Cross said.
Deaths from measles are already 42 per cent higher this year than in 2018.
Out of 286 deaths so far recorded this year, 110 have been of babies under 9 months old, while the median age of those who have died is just 2 years old, it added.
“We are in the grip of a measles outbreak that, tragically, is hitting the very young hardest,’’ Philippine Red Cross Chairman, Richard Gordon, said in a statement.
“With experts warning that the outbreak could last for months, potentially not stabilising until May, many more lives are at risk. This is a preventable tragedy. We have no time to lose and no time to be complacent,’’ he added.
The Department of Health has stepped up its vaccination programme for measles and has already been able to cover almost half of the targeted 3.78 million children aged 6 months to 5 years old.
It earlier blamed the measles outbreak 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 had not been infected by dengue before immunisation.