A health worker prepares a syringe with a vaccine against measles. File picture: Leo Correa/AP

Manila - The health department in the Philippines announced on Thursday an outbreak of measles in the Manila metropolitan area and other regions that has caused 22 deaths.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III blamed the high number of cases on low vaccination rates among children due to a scare trigger by a controversial government dengue vaccine programme in 2017.

The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday there had been 441 cases measles in the Manila metropolitan area as of January 26, compared to 36 cases in 2018.

On Thursday, Duque declared that there was also outbreak in central and southern Luzon and in central and western Visayas.

"These regions need to scale up their response against measles and have all unvaccinated children vaccinated against measles, a proven effective and safe measure to further stop its spread," Duque said.

He said that Calabarzon - a collective name for the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon - had the highest number of measles cases at 575, including nine deaths. In Metro Manila, meanwhile, there were five deaths, and in Luzon, there were 192 cases and four deaths.

The DOH said there was "low vaccine coverage because of the Dengvaxia scare."

In 2017, French firm Sanofi Pasteur disclosed that the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine posed risks to people who had not been infected before immunization. This prompted the DOH to suspend its immunization programme, which was launched by President Benigno Aquino III.

dpa