Free dengue vaccine now available in Cebu, 4 Metro Manila cities

MANILA, Philippines – Children aged 9 to 14 residing in Cebu and 4 cities in Metro Manila can now receive free dengue vaccines in health centers accredited by the Department of Health (DOH).

Dr Rhodora Cruz, the DOH's dengue program director, said the department launched its community-based immunization program in 5 pilot areas against the disease in August.

"Now, we are on the community-based immunization. Ito ay ginawa sa Cebu and also here sa NCR (It was done in Cebu and also in the National Capital Region) in 4 cities. So they have started the vaccination," said Cruz on the sidelines of Allied Against Dengue's roundtable discussion on Wednesday, August 23.

To get the vaccine, the child must be accompanied by his or her parent. The child must not have any other sickness to qualify him or her for the vaccine. (READ: World's first dengue vaccine now available in PH)

Latest DOH data show that 43,470 dengue cases were reported nationwide from January 1 to July 1, which is 36.8% lower than the figure during the same period last year. 

Cruz said Cebu and the 4 cities in NCR – Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Quezon City – were chosen because these areas recorded the highest number of cases. Cebu reported the highest number of dengue cases at 6,281, while NCR as a whole reported 5,567 cases.  

Activation manager Randy Silva of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Philippines said they conducted a survey in May regarding Filipinos' awareness of dengue. His company is part of Allied Against Dengue. 

"And here we actually saw that there's still a big gap in terms of how people perceive dengue and also the misconceptions that they hold," said Silva. 

"For example, 80% think there is a cure to dengue. There's actually no cure. There's a vaccine but when you actually have dengue, the only thing you can really do is manage it. Sixty-nine percent think antibiotics actually help the body, but we know antibiotics are only for bacterial infections," said Silva. 

He added less than half of Filipinos are aware of dengue's symptoms, including on-and-off fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and nausea.  Only 42% of Filipinos, said Silva, are aware that dengue patients should only be taking paracetamol.

Dengue patients are also advised to drink lots of fluid to manage the disease.  

Cruz said this is why the DOH and groups like Allied Against Dengue continue their information campaigns on dengue.

"Sa ating pong kababayan, sa buong Pilipinas, we are encouraging you na kuhanin ang tamang impormasyon tungkol sa dengue. Ang dengue ay preventable," said Cruz.

(We call on our countrymen to get the right information on dengue. Dengue is preventable.)

"So pagtulung-tulungan po nating ma-prevent ito na walang makagat [ng lamok na may dengue]. Kung sakaling lagnatin naman, ay agad pumunta sa ating pinakamalapit na health center," she added. 

(Let's work together so that no one will be bitten by a dengue-carrying mosquito. If you get a fever, go to the nearest health center at once.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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