The World Health Organization has expressed concern over reports coming from the Department of Health citing low vaccination rates due to the scare brought about by the Dengvaxia controversy.
WHO Country Representative to the Philippines Gundo Weiler said anxiety over the reported ill-effects of the anti-dengue vaccine should not prevent parents from having their children vaccinated against preventable diseases like polio, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis and the mumps.
“We have to remember this is a very different situation. This cannot be compared to the routine vaccination program that the Philippines has been running for many, many years which has been a very safe and very effective vaccination program,” said Weiler, referring to at least six vaccines given for free by the Department of Health as part of its standard immunization program.
WHO figures reveal an estimated one to two million lives are saved yearly by vaccines all over the world. An additional one million more lives could potentially be saved if vaccination programs are expanded and reach more people.
Weiler says the 2014 measles outbreak in the country where an estimated 58,000 and 110 deaths were reported, is one unfortunate result if vaccination targets are not met.
The Department of Health is encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated before the onset of the summer break where, traditionally, outbreak of measles and chicken pox are prevalent.
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo called on parents to trust other vaccines that have been regularly administered by the DOH over the past several decades.
“Naiintindihan naman natin na nagkaroon sila ng konting pangamba. Hindi siya katulad ng Dengvaxia na bagong bago na nagamit sa maramihan,” Domingo said.
The DOH had previously scored the findings of the Public Attorney’s Office hinting of possible links between the Dengvaxia vaccine and the deaths of at least 30 children.
The PAO has filed a civil case against drug maker Sanofi Pasteur and former DOH Officials for the death of an 11 year old child, using evidence gleaned from tissue samples and forensic examinations.
A similar study undertaken by the expert panel led by pathologists and other experts from the UP-PGH has yet to find evidence linking Dengvaxia to any of the suspected vaccine-related deaths.
To counter the falling vaccination rates in the country, some local government health workers like those in Zamboanga City, are waging a house to house vaccination campaign.
Around 230 suspected cases of measles have been reported in the city with around 5 deaths attributed to the disease.
Data from the City Health Office indicates only around 60 percent of an estimated 110 thousand children aged 6 to 56 months old have received the measles vaccine.
Despite the reluctance of some parents to have their children vaccinated by government health workers, people like Jackylyn Aspril from Barangay Roxas in Quezon City shrug off concerns over Dengvaxia.
She says all four of her children ages one to 10 years old have been regularly vaccinated at their barangay health center. Last December, her youngest child received the measles vaccine.
She, however, admits that she did not allow her eldest child to receive the second and third doses of Dengvaxia after drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted last November, that people who received the vaccine, and had no previous dengue infections may be susceptible to a more severe dengue infection.
Aspril said she still trusts the government’s vaccination programs and even encourages her neighbors to have their children vaccinated especially at the onset of the summer months.
“Sinabi ko pa nga sa kanila pabakuna pa nga nila kasi kailangan ng mga bata. Alam naman naming na (yung Dengvaxia) na kasama yun sa pang dengue magkaiba naman poi to kaya pinupush pa rin magpa-inject,” she said.
Health workers in Barangay Roxas are also doing a house to house vaccination campaign this summer and have not reported any incident where parents did not agree to have their children vaccinated. —JST, GMA News