Expert blames ‘quacks,’ Dengvaxia issue for COVID-19 vax hesitancy among parents of kids

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) — With kids aged 5-11 getting their COVID-19 shots soon, a vaccine expert underscored the factors that have caused hesitancy among some parents regarding the inoculation of their children.

“This is actually a problem or an issue that we have been dealing with since we started the COVID (vaccination) and the history of our vaccine hesitancy goes back more than three years ago with Dengvaxia and all that,” Philippine Foundation for Vaccination executive director Dr. Lulu Bravo said.

Dengvaxia drew controversy after some children who received the vaccine from 2016 to 2017 supposedly died or fell ill because of it, leading to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta to prosecute some former and current government officials. The Department of Health, however, has already said there's no solid proof linking Dengvaxia to the deaths.

TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

Bravo recalled how vaccine confidence was even at “101%” in the 1990s during the late Dr. Juan Flavier’s term as Health secretary, adding the country had a very high immunization coverage among children then.

“Sorry ha, pero minsan kasi ginagamit ang pulitika sa bakuna, eh. Hindi po dapat ‘yan. Sapagkat ang science po, ang tunay na datos na makikita sa pananaliksik, ‘yun po ang batayan kung papaano tayo magpo-progreso sa ating pagbabakuna,” she said.

[Translation: I’m sorry, but sometimes vaccination is tainted with politics, which shouldn’t be the case. Because the science, the real data seen from research — these are the metrics by which we can progress with our vaccination.]

Bravo also urged the public not to lose trust in vaccination and instead listen to genuine vaccine experts who have been conducting research and trials for years.

Huwag po tayong maniwala sa mga ‘quack,’ sa mga doktor na nagkukunwaring magaling sila. Nakapagpagawa na ba sila ng tunay na vaccine trial? Nasaan po ang kanilang credibility para sabihin na ang bakuna ay nakamamatay kung hindi naman po sila nag-aral tungkol sa bakuna?” she said.

[Translation: Let’s not believe so-called “quacks,” doctors who pretend they’re good. Have they conducted legitimate vaccine trials? Do they have the credibility to say that vaccines can kill when they haven’t even studied about vaccines?]

Aside from the Dengvaxia issue, Acosta has also attracted controversy for still not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, prompting current Health chief Francisco Duque III himself to urge her to get inoculated, given her age and comorbidities.