Recto urges DOH to boost immunization drive, 'triage' its budget

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to use part of its"massive" 2020 budget for advertising, travel, training, printing and publication, to counter disinformation against vaccines. 

Recto made the proposal as he noted that the DOH wants to provide children, pregnant women, and seniors with P7.54 billion worth of vaccines in 2020, amid continued resistance to vaccination stemming from the Dengvaxia scare.

The senator said in a statement on Saturday, that the DOH can direct a  portion of the at least 4 items in the  its proposed 2020 budget to help boost national immunization drive turnout.

These 4 items are advertising (P622.3 million),  printing and publication (P79 million),  travel expenses (P530 million), and training and scholarships (P2.16 billion). 

Fighting fear

Recto said "polio is making a comeback, partly because many of our people have been paralyzed by the fear generated by fake news on vaccines."

This week, the DOH declared a polio outbreak for the first time in 19 years.

Recto blamed "unfounded fears" for the downturn in the polio immunization rate. The average national polio vaccination coverage stands at about 66% to 68%. The target for herd immunity is 95%. 

He also suggested that the DOH practice "financial triage," or prioritizing important expenditures and postponing what isn't urgent to better make use of their budget. 

Vaccine beneficiaries

Among the DOH's beneficiaries for its 2020 vaccination program are  2.7 million infants who would be given a vaccine against polio, and vaccines against tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diptheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, rubella, and influenza.

Some 2 million infants will also get anti-pneumonia shots.

Meanwhile, the list of vaccination recipients includes 2.4 million Grade 1 and 1.9 million Grade 7 students who will receive shots against tetanus, diptheria, measles, and rubella.

The program will also give out 2.7 million tetanus vaccines for pregnant women, as well as 2 million units of influenza vaccine and 500,000 units of pneumococcal vaccine for senior citizens. – Rappler.com