THE Department of Health is alarmed that more and more parents are refusing to avail themselves of the government’s various vaccination programs in the wake of the Dengvaxia mess.
“Only about 60 percent of Filipino children are getting their scheduled vaccines, when the DoH’s annual vaccination rate target is around 8 percent,” the DoH said.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, meanwhile, assured the public that the vaccines administered to Filipino children are safe, saying 90 percent of children who received vaccination strengthened their immunity and health systems, despite the controversy over the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The DoH suspended a massive anti-dengue vaccination program in December 2017, after Dengvaxia’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said it could increase the risk of severe dengue in those who had not yet been exposed to the disease. By then, more than 800,000 schoolchildren had already been innoculated with the vaccine.
But the PIDSP said vaccines save lives because they prevents the spread of numerous diseases.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, cxecutive director of the National Institutes of Health of UP Manila and professor of pediatric infectious and tropical diseases at the UP College of Medicine, said vaccines save millions of lives each year from infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, rabies, measles and polio, but expressed dismay with the sudden decrease in number of parents allowing their children to be vaccinated.
“Thousands of children in the country are not fully immunized against these threats and vulnerable to numerous diseases,” the PIDSP official said.
She said vaccines have been used safely and effectively for decades, but because of the Dengvaxia controversy, a significant number of Filipino parents are now increasingly skeptical of the mandatory vaccinations.
Another group of doctors, the Philippine Society of Pathologists, led by its president, Dr. Bernadette R. Espiritu, called for prudence in the dissemination of information about Dengvaxia.
The group added that it is committed to support the Philippine Medical Association and the Department of Health in their efforts to reach out to the Dengvaxia vaccine-recipients and their families, and to help alleviate their plight as a result of the Dengvaxia scare.
The group took to task the Public Attorney’s Office for fueling fears about Dengvaxia.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Justice said it will investigate criminal charges filed against former President Benigno Aquino III and 19 others for their role in the Dengvaxia mess.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DoJ would soon start the preliminary investigation on the joint complaint filed by anti-corruption groups Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. and Dr. Francisco Cruz even if there is an ongoing fact-finding investigation on the Dengvaxia mess.
While probers have yet to determine the cause of death of children who died after getting the vaccine, it would be the burden of the private complainants to prove the criminal liabilities of the respondents during preliminary hearing, Aguirre said.
“It’s up to the complainants to prove their allegations. It’s their duty to support their cases and not depend on another’s submission,” he said.
He said the complaint filed by VACC and VPCI is independent of other possible complaints to be filed by other parties over the same controversy.
“It would be up to the prosecutors how to treat the complaints, whether to consolidate them or resolve separately,” he said.