The Department of Health (DOH) will begin the second round of dengue vaccination for Grade 4 students this August following the first one in April, DOH spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag announced Thursday.
A total of 489,003 students from the National Capital Region (NCR), CALABARZON, and Central Luzon will receive their second shots of Dengvaxia as part of DOH's school immunization program with the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
"Ito ay ginawa lang namin sa pampublikong paaralan at ito'y binigay lang sa Grade 4 na edad nine or 10. Di namin pinili kung lalaki o babae, basta Grade 4, nine or 10 [years old]," Tayag said at a health forum in Manila.
Students in these regions will receive three free doses of Dengvaxia in six-month intervals to complete the treatment.
Free vaccination is restricted to Grade 4 students in the three regions to conform with the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation to restrict dengue immunization to dengue hotspots in the country.
"Mas makakabuting i-introduce nila 'yun sa lugar kung saan dati nang mataas ang dengue. Desisyon ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan na dun sa tatlong yon ay base yun sa report namin for the past three years," Tayag explained.
Vaccination is also restricted to public schools to help the DOH monitor the effects of the vaccine and assess if it will grant lifetime immunity to dengue.
"We're hoping it will be at least five years. Kasi bago lang yung vaccine so fina-follow up 'to if it will be lifetime sana," Tayag said.
The Philippines pushed ahead with giving free dengue vaccination before the WHO released its recommendation last April. It is the first country to license the dengue vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur in Asia.
Families or individuals who wish to purchase the vaccine may ask their doctors for a prescription for a prohibitive, undisclosed fee, though Tayag encouraged the public to see it as an investment rather than a frivolous purchase.
"Nalulungkot kami kapag ang tingin niyo sa vaccine is something you will spend on. Hindi, investment ang vaccine. Buhay niyo nakataya," he said.
He added that the government greenlighted the purchase and distribution of the vaccine because of the country's need for protection against dengue.
"Tayo nauna sa dengue vaccine hindi dahil sa meron tayong pera kundi kailangan natin. Isa tayo sa may pinakamataas na kaso ng dengue at ang inyong pamahalaan ay gagawa ng lahat ng paraan pero hindi yung sugod ng sugod," Tayag said.
The DOH Epidemiology Bureau recorded 66,299 dengue cases and 287 deaths from Jan. 1 to July 16 this year, marking a 22.9 percent increase from the 53,938 cases and 186 deaths recorded during the same period in 2015.
Most of the cases were found in CALABARZON (8,059 or 12.2 percent), Northern Mindanao (6,447 or 9.7 percent), Central Visayas (6,422 or 9.7 percent), SOCCSKARGEN (6,063 or 9.1 percent) and Central Luzon (6,048 or 9.1 percent). —KBK, GMA News