RITM leads first Stakeholders’ Meeting for VPD Referral Laboratory Network
Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center representative Kathleen Kaye Libre reporting updates on the establishment of VPD Referral Laboratory in the Region VII 

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, through its Virology Department, led the conduct of the first Stakeholders’ Meeting for the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Referral Laboratory Network (VPD-RL) on November 22, 2022 at the Quest Hotel in Clark, Pampanga.

The meeting served as an avenue to promote strong networking among the referral laboratories and to provide updates on the status of the establishment of the VPD Referral Laboratory Network in their respective regions. The event also allowed for a planning session to discuss the reporting mechanisms among the referral laboratories in the network and their national and regional stakeholders, and the ways forward for the VPD referral laboratories in the Philippines.

“The past years have been extra challenging for the control of vaccine preventable diseases, considering the fluctuating vaccine coverage and the hurdles brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos, highlighting the current challenges that put thousands of Filipino children at risk for vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, japanese encephalitis and rotavirus.

 In the Philippines, Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs) such as Measles, Rubella, Rotavirus and Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV) are the most common causes of childhood morbidity and mortality. During the first quarter of 2019 there were 25, 956 measles cases including 381 deaths reported , an increase by 378% compared to the same time period in 2018.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 2.6 million Filipino children under the age of 5 years are not protected from measles. With the continued disruption of immunization programs due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, the likelihood of measles outbreaks in the coming months are high. Rotavirus, meanwhile, accounts for 40% of all cases of acute infectious diarrhea in Filipino children.

Availability of these data will be made possible by the establishment of an efficient and effective surveillance system in the country and the establishment of the 7 VPD referral laboratories,” said Dr. Carlos.

The data generated by the VPD-RLs will serve as evidence of the burden of disease in vaccine introduction, evaluation of diseases for eradication, elimination, control, and confirmation of outbreaks, such as measles, japanese encephalitis and rotavirus. 

Speaking on behalf of the VPD Referral Laboratory Network, Medical Center Chief of Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital Dr. Monserrat S. Chichioco committed to the network’s delivery of effective and efficient health services and public health programs.

In the coming years, we expect to receive referrals of VPD samples in our institutions. With the established network and linkages with DRUs [Diseases Reporting Units], ESUs [Epidemiology Surveillance Units], and other stakeholders we hope that we will be able to live up to our mandate as we continually improve the operations of VPD-RLs and further improve our network coverage,” said Dr. Chichioco,

Fifty-seven (57) representatives from the seven VPD Referral Laboratories from Regions I, III, VI, VII, IX, XI, and XII participated in the meeting. The seven VPD-RLs are the Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital, Ilocos Training Regional and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Western Visayas Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, and Zamboanga City Medical Center. 

By Reina Manongsong, Communication and Engagement Office