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DOH chief: Measles outbreak due to Dengvaxia scare, NPA problem

The measles outbreak in some parts of the country is due to the public scare over the government’s vaccination program brought about by the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine controversy and the continued infestation of the New People’s Army (NPA) in some areas, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday.

“Our vaccination program was affected by the continuing Dengvaxia controversy. There was third party study of an outfit based in London which revealed that there is a significant drop in confidence of our people in the immunization program of DOH (Department of Health)…from 92 percent to 33 percent,” Duque told reporters.

“Ang laki ng ibinagsak,” Duque added.

Officials of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi announced in November 2017 their discovery that the vaccine posed a risk to those who were not infected by dengue prior to being injected the vaccine, but this announcement only came after the vaccine had been administered to over 700,000 children and even policemen.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Sanofi returned P1.16 billion to the Department of Health for the unused doses of vaccine.

With the Dengvaxia controversy still unresolved, the DOH reported an outbreak of measles in General Santos City  while cases measles were also recorded in Sarangani this week. At least 84 people are suspected to be infected by measles. Of this number, tests confirmed one died due to measles, while 17 other fatalities are also suspected to have died of measles.  Those who died were aged two months to 22 years old.

Duque, however, clarified that the volatile peace and order situation in the affected areas, as long as longstanding standing tradition of indigenous peoples’ residing there, is also a factor.

“It is not only [about] Dengvaxia. Of course, there are NPA infested areas, so there are peace and security issues there,” Duque said.

“Education is also important. Among those infected were from the B’laan tribe. It could take 20 hours to reach them by foot. Our indigenous communities have certain longstanding beliefs…’yung mga di naniniwala sa bakuna, di naniniwala sa blood transfusion, kaya dapat may kaakibat na edukasyon ang ating mga programa,” Duque added.

As of Thursday, the Health Department has been able to give outbreak response immunization specifically measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to 49 children aged six months to 12 years old on the initial deployment and to additional 246 children on second deployment. — RSJ, GMA News