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Parents, medical experts worry over dengue vaccination program

Some parents could not help but worry as a pharmaceutical company reveled that the Dengvaxia vaccine was only safe for people who had been infected with dengue.

"Sana hindi muna ipinakalat. Kumbaga, dapat tinray (try) muna nila doon sa nagkaroon na ng Dengue," one of the parents lamented on GMA 7 news program "24 Oras" on Friday.

The matter also weighed heavily on the mind of Edwin Manansala, whose daughter Jasmin, a student of the Marikina Elementary School, was vaccinated as part of the National Anti-Dengue Program.

"So sana huwag naman dumating doon sa punto na mangyari sa anak ko, sa ibang bata. Kaso wala na po kaming magagawa dahil nasaksakan na po eh," said Manansala.

Some health advocates have weighed in, arguing that they had opposed the drug's use even before it was approved by the DOH for the national immunization program.

"So we thought it would be effective in patients who already had dengue. It might protect them but if you never had dengue, it might harm you. We thought that was already visible from studies at that time," explained Philippine General Hospital physician Dr. Antonio Dans.

A Facebook post by Former DOH undersecretary Susan Pineda Mercado had also described the immunization program as a "government funded clinical-trial-masked-as-a-public-health-program scam."

The program started last August 2016 by the DOH under the leadership of former Health Secretary Janette Garin.

In a text message to GMA News, Garin said the school-based dengue vaccination program was implemented in accordance with the guidelines and criteria set by the World Health Organization.

Senator JV Ejercito on Friday said the Senate Blue Ribbon and Health Committees needed  to look into the DOH's procurement of the Dengue vaccine.

It was Wednesday when the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur advised against prescribing Dengvaxia to patients who had not been infected by the Dengue virus since it could cause severe diseases in the long run.

Given the concerns, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday announced that the dengue vaccination program would be suspended.

Duque added that none of the 700,000 Filipinos who had been immunized had  reported experiencing a "severe case" of the disease. — Margaret Clair Layug/DVM, GMA News