THE GOVERNMENT should continue its immunization programs amid a Luzon-wide lockdown meant to contain a novel coronavirus pandemic, a medical expert said on Wednesday.

“We do need to also vaccinate against the vaccine-preventable diseases, specifically influenza because they can actually make a COVID-19 infection much more severe,” Lulu C. Bravo, a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines-Manila College of Medicine said at an online briefing.

She said 2% to 3% of coronavirus disease 2019 patients also contract influenza.

Ms. Bravo, who is also the executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said frontliners including medical workers exposed to diseases and the vulnerable population — children, pregnant women, elderly and people with underlying conditions — could be protected with immunization.

Vaccines could also help frontliners focus on attending to the needs of COVID-19 patients.

“With fewer people needing medical attention and with healthier medical workers, we can then lighten the load on our health care facilities and allow them to focus more on COVID-19 cases,” Ms. Bravo said.

She noted that aside from immunization, measles cases, which is an airborne disease and prevented by vaccine, were down due to the so-called enhanced community quarantine. Measles cases rose last year.

Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions against diseases, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said last month, citing the World Health Organization.

She also said the Health department had issued a memo calling for the routine immunization of children up to a year old, and the vaccination of kids under five years old who failed to get their vaccination shots “as long as COVID-19 response measures allow.”

Routine immunization may be suspended if it is not feasible, but health workers should keep a list of children who missed their shots. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas