Duque to health workers: ‘Woo' parents to avail of vaccination programs

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has ordered health workers nationwide to be persistent in convincing parents to avail of other vaccination programs offered by the government.

Duque said at the 4th Senate hearing on the now-suspended dengue vaccination program that the Dengvaxia scare has kept parents from getting their children immunized for other diseases.

During the hearing on Wednesday, February 21, Senator JV Ejercito asked Duque what the DOH was doing to address the lower immunization rate, which Undersecretary Enrique Domingo had said was already down to 60% from the expected 85% coverage.  

“Meron po kaming outbreak response on immunization….Ang akin pong kautusan sa mga tao po namin sa DOH dito po sa mga naturang rehiyon ay ‘wag silang titigil, ‘wag silang susuko,” said Dique.

(We have an outbreak response on immunization…I ordered the DOH personnel in the said regions that they should not stop, they should not give up.)

“Kung kinakailangan, ligawan nila ang mga pamilya na hayaan nila ang DOH na magbigay ng bakuna sa kanilang mga anak (If needed, they must woo the parents to allow the DOH to administer vaccines on their kids),” he added. 

Duque was referring to the Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao City, where a measles outbreak  was declared. As of Wednesday, Duque said the outbreak in Davao has already been contained.

In the Zamboanga Peninsula, the vaccination rate of children for diseases like measles and mumps decreased from 73% to 63%. 

According to Duque, parents now feared getting other vaccines for their children after French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pastuer announced in November 2017 that Dengvaxia may lead a person to develop severe dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior to immunization.

Dengvaxia was the vaccine used when ex-DOH chief Janette Garin launched the dengue vaccination program in April 2016. Around 837,000 received at least one dose of the risky vaccine before Duque suspended the program in December 2017.

Some parents also refused to get their kids vaccinated because they have existing fevers at the time of the scheduled immunization program. Others have “cultural and religious idiosyncrasies” that have made them shun the efficacy of vaccines, said Duque.

The DOH chief reiterated his call for parents to continue availing of other vaccination programs for their children, noting that vaccines have saved the lives of millions of people.

“Marami na pong mga nasalbang mga buhay, anywhere between 3 million to 5 million individuals. Lives have been saved because of our very effective program on immunizaiton. Ito po ang ginagawa namin,” said Duque. 

(Vaccines were already able to save many lives, anywhere between 3 million to 5 million individuals. Lives have been saved because of our very effective program on immunization. That’s what we are doing.) 

The DOH is currently implementing various information campaigns to educate parents on the benefits of vaccines. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

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