MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto urged the Department of Health (DOH) to use its P634-million advertising budget to fight vaccine fake news.
In a statement on Monday, February 5, Recto said that the budget should be used to launch an information drive that would spread awareness regarding vaccines so that public confidence in government healthcare programs would not erode. (READ: Dengvaxia safety trial unfinished when vaccination program launched – Duque)
“Whether we like it or not, one side effect of this Dengvaxia controversy is that people are asking if the vaccines to be bought using taxpayers’ money are safe,” he said.
Recto noted that the Dengvaxia issue could trigger a “vaccine backlash” that could possibly put millions of children, seniors, and women at risk. The information drive could “calm unfounded concerns that immunization causes harm,” he said on Monday. (READ: Duque: Dengvaxia controversy ‘tainted credibility’ of DOH)
“I know that they ought to be, but the DOH must still go out of its way to assure the public that vaccines meet the highest standards,” he added.
The DOH has a budget of P107.3 billion for 2018 – P7.43 billion of which will be used for public vaccination program that targets full immunization of 2.7 million infants. All 2.7 million infants will be administered Japanese Encephalitis vaccine while some 1.4 million infants are set to be given pneumococcal vaccine.
Meanwhile, 2.7 million pregnant women will receive tetanus vaccine. Some 1.2 million flu shots and 1.3 million pneumococcal vaccines will be administered to seniors.
DOH earlier said that more parents are refusing to avail of government’s vaccination programs following the Dengvaxia controversy. The annual vaccination rate target is around 85% but only 60% of Filipino children are getting their scheduled vaccines.
The health department also said the vaccine scare explains the recent measles outbreak in Davao.
Recto said that “misconceptions around vaccination should be addressed with the truth.”
In November 2017, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur announced that dengue vaccine Dengvaxia posed a risk for people administered with the vaccine without prior infection. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)
The UP-PGH team earlier revealed that 3 of the 14 children who died after receiving the vaccine had dengue after immunization.
The probe on the controversy is still ongoing.
WATCH Monday’s House hearing on the Dengvaxia controversy here.– Rappler.com