Measles threat looms in Philippines as trust in vaccines declines

Just 7% of eligible children in conflict areas in the southern Philippines were immunized against measles this year, the WHO said. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Measles threat looms in Philippines as trust in vaccines declines

  • Measles cases jumped nearly fivefold to 17,300 in the 11 months to November versus last year’s figure
  • Just 7 percent of eligible children in conflict areas in the southern Philippines were immunized against measles this year

MANILA: Health experts on Monday warned against a possible outbreak of measles in the Philippines, as a disease long under control is fueled by patchy immunization programs and declining trust in vaccines.
Measles cases jumped nearly fivefold to 17,300 in the 11 months to November versus last year’s figure, mostly in conflict areas in the south, said doctors and officials of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We have almost eradicated measles, but we are now seeing a rise in cases, because the trust in vaccines is declining this year,” Lulu Bravo, of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, told a meeting on media reporting on vaccines.
“This is disturbing,” she said, tracing the drop in confidence to political factors, among other reasons, but did not elaborate. “Filipinos are becoming scientifically illiterate.”
No deaths from measles were reported in 2014, she said, adding that immunization efforts in many countries had already stamped out the disease, like smallpox. Four children died from measles this year on the southern island of Mindanao.
Just 7 percent of eligible children in conflict areas in the southern Philippines were immunized against measles this year, the WHO said.
Last year’s five-month battle to liberate the southern city of Marawi from Islamic State-inspired rebels fed the surge, WHO experts said, adding that overcrowding in temporary shelter areas and migration worsened the problem, while vaccine penetration was low.
The conflict reduced the heart of the city of 200,000 to rubble, killing 1,109 people, mostly militants, and displacing 350,000, stirring concern the region could become Islamic State’s hub in Southeast Asia.
Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, head of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of the Philippines, said 69 percent of children with measles this year proved to have had no immunization, for reasons such as their parents’ refusal.
She said the politics behind the controversial anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, was partly to be blamed for the low trust in the government’s mass immunization program, with health workers sometimes labelled “killers” in some areas.
“Definitely, it has affected the confidence on vaccines,” said WHO official Achyut Shrestha, adding that immunization coverage in the Philippines stood amid the lower reaches in the region, along with Laos and Papua New Guinea.
Last month, an opinion poll by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed just 32 percent of 1,500 Filipinos surveyed trusted vaccines, down from 93 percent in 2015.
The figure is this year’s only decline in a nation in the WHO’s Western Pacific region, home to 1.9 billion people across 37 countries.


France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

Updated 19 June 2019
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France’s Nicolas Sarkozy loses bid to avoid influence peddling trial

  • Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion
  • Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers

PARIS: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial for influence peddling after the country's highest court rejected his final bid to have the case thrown out, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Sarkozy is accused of offering to help a judge win promotion in return for leaked information about a separate inquiry. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The case came about after investigators used phone-taps to examine allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi funded Sarkozy’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2007.
As they eavesdropped on his calls, the investigators began to suspect the former president had offered the judge promotion in return for information on another investigation involving allegations Sarkozy accepted illicit payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for the same campaign.
Sarkozy’s lawyers have previously argued that magistrates investigating the alleged secret Libyan funding exceeded their powers and went on a “fishing expedition” by tapping his conversations between September 2013 and March 2014, breaching lawyer-client privilege.
He was cleared over the Bettencourt allegations.
On Wednesday, his defence team said the use in this case of wiretapped remarks gleaned in relation to a different investigation contravened a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
"These legal issues are still relevant," Sarkozy lawyer Jacqueline Laffont said. "It will be for the court to decide whether a French court can override a decision of the European Court of Human Rights."
Wednesday's ruling that the trial proceed came from the 'Cour de Cassation', which decides whether an earlier decision by an appeals court conforms with French law.