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Philippines urged to stick with ‘superior’ pneumococcal vaccine PCV13

The Philippines should stick to pneumococcal  conjugate vaccine 13 (PCV13) as it is superior to the PCV10, a health expert from El Salvador said.

Luis Villatoro, president of the Pediatric Association of El Salvador, noted that while both PCV 13 and PCV10 are very good vaccines, each has its own capacity to deal with certain diseases since pneumococcus is a family of bacteria.

“According to the WHO [World Health Organization], both vaccines are similar. This is where we don’t agree. Our lessons learned in this process is that if you’re doing okay, if you already have the budget and doing okay with the vaccine you’re working now, it’s better to continue working with that. To change may lead to a bigger price,” Villatoro said in a virtual forum on Thursday.

Villatoro was referring to WHO's position paper, released in February 2019, which posited that both PCV13 and PCV10 have substantial impacts against pneumonia, vaccine-type pneumococcal disease, and nasopharyngeal carriage when given to infants and children under five years old.

Villatoro said that PCV13 has proven to be superior because it protects against three more pneumococcus strains, including serotype 19, which is one of the most invasive and virulent. 

“Serotype 19a can spread easily from children to adults, and has shown to be resistant to antibiotics. Authorities thought it was a good idea to switch from PCV13 to 10 to save money. But in the long run, it became more expensive and more troublesome for health personnel,” Villatoro said.

El Salvador was already using PCV13 when the WHO came out with the position paper that said nations could opt for either PCV13 or PCV10 and purportedly get the same protection at a lower cost.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said back in February that  the Health department will continue to provide PCV13 for its national immunization program (NIP) pending the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) review on existing health programs and benefits of the Health department and PhilHealth in the next two years.

Under the NIP program, PCV is given to the public for free to protect children, pregnant women, and the elderly against diseases caused by pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.

“While we want our Filipino children to be protected against any pneumococcal disease, we also want to ensure them of the highest quality of our vaccines,” Duque said then. — BM, GMA News