Doctors: Parents refusing vaccines due to Dengvaxia scare

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 3) — A group of doctors appealed to parents who refuse to have their kids vaccinated following the scandal over the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Dr. Sally Gatchalian, vice president of the Philippine Pedriatic Society, said the scare has caused a decline in parents getting vaccinations for their children for other diseases such as flu, measles, polio and tuberculosis.

"Vaccination programs are one of the most cost-effective health preventive measures," Gatchalian said on Friday. "Stated din 'yan ng [That is also stated by the] World Health Organization and it's one of the greatest achievements in public health."

Citing a study by the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health on the coverage of the national vaccination program in a particular barangay in Pampanga, Gatchalian said the coverage dropped to 49 percent for January 2018 from 89 percent in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, East Avenue Medical Center pediatrician Ramon Severino said although vaccines are not 100 percent effective, vaccinated children have better protection from diseases.

"Eh bakit hindi natin nadadama ang polio?" he said. "Because of our compliance and the Health Department knows well it could prevent 'yang mga preventable disease. Iniiwasan natin pwedeng magkasakit lang ang isang bata. Pwedeng mag-outbreak 'yun."

[Translation: Why don't we experience polio? It's because of our compliance and the Health Department knows well that vaccines could prevent those preventable diseases. We are making sure that not one child gets sick. It could cause an outbreak.]

The Health Department suspended the government's Dengvaxia program in December 2017 after the vaccine's manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said the vaccine is more risky for people not previously infected by the virus.

Read: Gov't halts dengue vaccination program due to health risk

On Friday, the Philippine General Hospital's Dengue Investigative Task Force released a report saying that the death of two children may be linked to Dengvaxia.

Read: 2 deaths may be due to Dengvaxia failure - experts

"Tatlong kaso ang nakitaan ng causal association. Sila ay namatay sa dengue kahit sila ay nabigyan ng Dengvaxia. Dalawa sa kanila ay maaaring dulot ng vaccine failure. Kakailanganin pa ang karagdagang pagsusuri ng tissue samples upang makumpleto ang imbestigasyon," said Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo, who was also in the briefing.

[Translation: Three cases were found with causal association. They died due to dengue despite receiving Dengvaxia. Two of them were possibly caused by vaccine failure. More studies have to be done to complete the investigation.]

P-Noy faces more charges

As a result of the Dengvaxia controversy, former President Benigno Aquino III and other former Cabinet officials are facing more complaints.

Advocacy group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said Aquino violated election laws when he released around ₱3.5 billion to buy the vaccine 45 days before the May 2016 polls.

Former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 16 other health officials were also listed in the complaint.

In December 2017, the Justice Department issued an immigration lookout bulletin for Aquino and other ex-Cabinet Secretaries after parents of children administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine filed a case against them before the Ombudsman.

Read: DOJ issues lookout bulletin vs. Aquino, ex-Cabinet Secretaries over Dengvaxia controversy

Aquino and Garin likewise face a mass murder complaint filed by former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Augusto Syjuco.

Read: Former President Aquino, ex-health officials face mass murder, plunder complaint over Dengvaxia mess

In a December 2017 Senate hearing, Aquino said his administration implemented the Dengvaxia program for the public's protection.

Read: Aquino defends quick purchase of Dengvaxia using gov't savings

"From our perspective, the choice is simple. We can implement it at this point and time for the protection or wait at least a year as a minimum and expose our people to a risk that could have been prevented because of this vaccine," Aquino said.

More than 800,000 children were immunized with Dengvaxia, the world's first dengue vaccine.