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11 Serious and Highly Contagious Childhood Diseases That Are Vaccine-Preventable

The re-emergence of polio may be the start of more diseases spreading.

With polio re-emerging in the Philippines, a Filipino doctor warned the public about the possibility of more diseases spreading due to low immunization rates. This comes after the Department of Health (DOH) declared a national dengue epidemic and a measles outbreak all within 2019.

“We’re already getting reports of chickenpoxmumpspertussis. Measles is just the most transmissible, a big indicator that vaccine rates are down,” Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña, an infectious diseases specialist told ANC’s Early Edition on Thursday, September 26, 2019.

He adds, “And we know it’s not just polio, these are all combination vaccines. We already are below the threshold for protection for a lot of diseases.”

11 vaccine-preventable childhood diseases

The same day, the DOH confirmed that a 10-year-old girl from Manila died due to diphtheria. She developed a high fever, rashes, and mouth sores and eventually died on September 20, just hours after she was diagnosed with the disease. This is truly tragic because diphtheria and other highly-contagious infections diseases mentioned above are vaccine-preventable. Yet immunization rates in the Philippines have dropped to 40% in 2018, according to the DOH.

Here are all the highly-contagious diseases that can be avoided with vaccination:


Diphtheria is a bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat. It is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheria. It spreads from person to person usually through respiratory droplets, like from coughing or sneezing. A person can also get sick by coming in contact with an object, like a toy, which contains the bacteria that cause diphtheria.

The bacteria produce toxins that can destroy healthy tissues in a person’s respiratory system and within two to three days, a thick, gray coating called a “pseudomembrane” builds up in a person’s throat or nose. The poison may also get into the bloodstream and damage the heart, nerves, and kidneys. Diphtheria can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death.

According to Mayo Clinic, there is another type of diphtheria called skin (cutaneous) diphtheria, which causes pain, redness, and swelling in the skin, as well as ulcers covered by a gray membrane. This type of Diptheria is more common in tropical climates, like in the Philippines.

What vaccine prevents diphtheria? 

The DTap vaccine helps protect kids from this highly-contagious disease. It is included in the 2019 childhood immunization schedule as the pentavalent vaccine (DTwp-Hib-HepB), which “combines antigens for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


More commonly known as flu, influenza is a respiratory illness that is very contagious and can spread rapidly from person to person. If your child is exposed to someone who has the flu and that person coughs or sneezes, chances will be high that an unvaccinated child will get infected.

There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. influenza types A and B are usually those that trigger epidemics every year and often lead to hospitalization and death. Influenza type C, on the other hand, is considered a mild respiratory illness.

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It is possible that complications can happen to some individuals. These can include pneumonia, sinus, and ear infections, and even inflammation of different organs like the heart, brain, or muscle tissues. Some may end up being life-threatening and possibly cause death.

What vaccine prevents influenza?

The pentavalent vaccine gives protection to influenza type B. There is also the annual flu vaccination season during March and April. It is given every year because the prevalent strain of the flu virus changes from year to year as well. According to Dr. Eduardo Gonzales, the flu vaccine is a must for “children between six months and five years of age, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, and people 50 years and older.” 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver,” which can be caused by toxins, drugs, metabolic diseases, and infection. Hepatitis B is a virus that is passed through blood and bodily fluids. Mothers who do not know they are infected can easily pass the virus during pregnancy or after birth.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), a person can also become infected through:

  • Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with the infected person
  • Contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other types of injection
  • Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments

What vaccine prevents Hepatitis B?

There is no cure for Hepatitis B, so it is important that newborns do not leave the hospital without getting a dose of the HBV vaccine or hepatitis B vaccine. It protects all babies (whether the mom is infected with the virus or not) from acquiring the infection and prevents them from developing serious liver disease later on.


Measles is a highly contagious virus that can quickly spread because it can be passed from one person to another by direct contact through the air. According to pediatrician Dr. Candy Aguilar-Ocampo, “[It] could spread when a [infected] patient sneezes, wipes his nose, or rubs his eyes with his bare hands and holds on to things where he can leave discharges.”

What vaccine prevents measles?

The measles and the MMR vaccines are given to babies at a minimum age of 9 months in two doses. It is included in the 2019 immunization schedule and available in health centers for free.


Meningococcemia is a bacterial infection of the bloodstream that is potentially life-threatening. It is transmitted from person-to-person through close and lengthy contact, particularly by sharing respiratory and throat secretions — like coughing and sneezing. It may also be transmitted through kissing and sharing of food, drinks, and utensils.

What vaccine prevents meningococcemia?

The meningococcal vaccine is crucial in protecting people from this potentially fatal disease. There are three types available for preteens and teens, and it is usually given starting from the age of 11 or 12.


Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects a person’s salivary glands that are located near the ears. It can cause swelling in one or both of these glands.

The infection is usually spread through coughing. A child with mumps will become contagious a day or two before the swelling begins, and will remain contagious for five more days after the swelling has started.

What vaccine prevents mumps?

Mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine, which protects against three diseases: mumps, measles, and rubella.


Also known as whooping cough, this is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria attach themselves to the cilia or the small hairs found inside the nose and release toxins that impair the cilia and cause inflammation to the airways. This makes it difficult for an infected person to breathe properly.

Most of the cases and related deaths affect infants who are too young to receive the vaccine or children who have not completed the full immunization course. Teens and adults whose immunity to whooping cough has faded are also vulnerable to catching the disease.

What vaccine prevents pertussis?

The DTap vaccine drastically reduces your child’s likelihood of getting infected. It is administered in three doses starting at six weeks old. There are also three booster shots for the vaccine.

Pneumococcal infections

Pneumococcal infections are various types of illnesses caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. This can cause diseases such as sinus and ear infections, bacteremia (a bloodstream infection), pneumonia, and meningitis.

There are more than 90 strains and types of pneumococcal bacteria that can cause disease, according to the CDC. It can spread from person to person. Pneumonia, for example, can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing or sharing cups and utensils. You may also spread the illness by not washing your hands regularly, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and then being in close contact with other people.

What vaccine prevents pneumococcal infections?

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), specifically PCV13, provides protection against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is included in the childhood immunization schedule and administered in four doses starting at six to eight weeks old.


Polio or poliomyelitis is “a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease,” according to the CDC. “It is caused by any one of the three related viruses called poliovirus types 1, 2, and 3. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis."

It is a highly contagious disease that enters the body through the mouth and can be transmitted via direct contact with feces or inhalation of droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected individual. It is also possible to get the virus by having feces in your hand and then touching your mouth or by putting your mouth near an object that has been contaminated by feces.

What vaccine prevents polio?

Both the oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine are needed to protect children from this crippling disease. The OPV is administered for free in health centers and is given in three doses, while the IPV is administered along with the last dose of the OPV.


Rotavirus is a highly contagious infection that can be extremely dangerous for infants and young children. It is the most common cause of diarrhea among children and even childhood deaths worldwide, according to Mayo Clinic.

Rotavirus spreads easily via hand-to-mouth contact. If your child has rotavirus and you don’t wash your hands after changing your child’s soiled diaper or helping her use the toilet, the virus can be transmitted onto the things you touch. You can also spread the infection if you touch someone else’s unwashed hands or contaminated items, or if you end up eating contaminated food.

What vaccine prevents rotavirus?

The Philippines became the first Southeast Asian country to introduce the rotavirus vaccine and included it in the childhood immunization schedule. It is given in two doses starting at six weeks.


Also known as chickenpox, this highly contagious disease is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash that first appears on the chest, back and face and then spread over the entire body. It can spread easily via close contact and can easily affect people who have never had the disease or who have not been vaccinated.

What vaccine prevents varicella?

Getting the varicella vaccine is still the best way to protect your child against this disease. Kids need two doses of the vaccine, starting at the age of 12 to 15 months. It is not advisable to participate in “chickenpox parties” because it will be hard to determine the severity of the symptoms.

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