MANILA, Philippines – The city government of Makati will provide 60,000 free Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccines to public school students and local government employees, with Mayor Abigail Binay getting the first shot on Monday, November 27, to demonstrate that the vaccines are safe.
Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne virus commonly traced to rural agriculture areas, as pigs and aquatic birds serve as its host. In 2017, the Department of Health has reported 133 patients with JE in the Philippines, two of them from Metro Manila. In September, the virues killed 9 in Pampanga.
While Makati is nowhere near an agricultural area, Binay insisted on the immediate rollout of the program as a means of prevention, saying Makati is the first local government unit to provide free JE vaccinations in the Philippines.
“I don’t want to wait for it to become a problem,” Binay said. “We want to be preventive and proactive. The same way that we have vaccinations for dengue, which has been taking lives of a lot of children.”
Dr Bernard Sese of the Makati City Health Department said 20-30% of those infected by the JE virus either die, or survive with a neurological defects like seizures or discoordinated muscular movements, or fall into a coma.
Children below 15 years old are also the most vulnerable to the virus, which usually starts with a fever 5 to 15 days after one is infected, Sese said.
When Binay learned about the virus, she said she thought of her children immediately, which prompted her to push for the project, she being “the mother of the city.”
The JE vaccination program for local government employees – including public school teachers and health workers – will run until the end of December 2017.
The vaccines for public school students, from Kinder to Grade 6, will be administered starting January 2018.
The program will also coordinate with Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) to encourage parents to sign consent forms, and to keep students from hiding waivers from their parents out of fear of injections.
“You get it for free, so why would you deprive yourself or your children from getting it?” Binay said.
Dr Sese gave assurances that the JE vaccination is 100% safe, with only a slight fever as its known side effect. He also clarified that the vaccination is available in most public and private hospitals, but is excluded from the National Immunization Program. – Rappler.com
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