Health dept targets 42 million school children for mass deworming

The Department of Health (DOH) is targeting 42 million schoolchildren aged 1-18 years as beneficiaries of its nationwide deworming program under the school-based immunization program.

During Tuesday's press briefing at the DOH media relations unit in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz Manila, Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said they are looking forward to carrying out "Oplan Goodbye Bulate" this month among 19 million children aged 5-18 years in public schools, as well as 23 million pre-school (1-4 years) and school-aged children who are not in public schools.

Another deworming will be conducted in July as part of the National School Deworming Month.

A total of PHP106.3 million has been allocated in the DOH budget for this year's deworming program. "This includes everything -- the health information, training, IEC materials and also the response for side effects and surveillance and for research," said Ubial.

Of the amount, PHP82 million will be spent on the tablets, which cost PHP2 each, she said, noting that the amount is higher than the PHP59.8 million budget allocated last year.

The DOH will collaborate with the Department of Education in the deworming in public schools, while private schools may receive the deworming pills from the health centers, rural health units, and barangay health stations.

Mass deworming is done to help prevent the discharge of "ova" or eggs of parasitic worms to the environment to decrease re-infestation rates among children.

"If we can reduce the volume of ova/eggs, we can reduce the infestation," Ubial said, adding that deworming should be coupled with proper hygiene and sanitation.

In July last year, the national deworming campaign covered 15.8 million of the target 19.2 million school-aged children, and 7.8 million of the target 10.6 million pre-school-aged children.

World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, Dr. Gundo Weiler, said the Philippines has surpassed the 75 percent target recommended by the organization.

"It is excellent to see you (DOH) ahead and your coverage is exceeding the global rate and also the regional average rates for the coverage rate in school children of more than 80 percent and pre-school children of more than 70 percent. It is a testament to the strong commitment by the government. We want to congratulate the Philippines for that," Weiler said.

"The challenge is for us to be able to go beyond the 82 percent accomplishment rate achieved last July," Ubial said.

The deworming program, which will administer the Albendazole chewable tablets (400 mg), will be on a voluntary basis and will only be implemented with consent forms filled up by the parents or guardian of the child.

"Let us not deprive our children of the protection against serious illnesses. Ask and verify facts on deworming from your nearest health facility," Ubial said, assuring that the drug is safe and has been certified by the WHO and the Food and Drug Administration.

She said the tablet's side effects are "minimal" -- dizziness, nausea, headache and vomiting -- and are transient, self-limiting and manageable. She further clarified that the abdominal pain reported in Zamboanga in the past deworming program has been proven to be unrelated to the deworming pill.

Source: Philippines News Agency