DOH: Vaccine an ‘additional strategy’ to fight dengue in PH

Jee Y. Geronimo

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DOH: Vaccine an ‘additional strategy’ to fight dengue in PH
Health Spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy says actively pursuing steps against dengue, such as cleaning one's surroundings, is still a better approach as it also targets other mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya and Zika

MANILA, Philippines – As the world’s first-ever dengue vaccine becomes available in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reminded the public not to let their guard down against the disease.

“The vaccine is an additional strategy we’re putting into the dengue program. Baka sabihin nila may bakuna na sa dengue, hindi na concern yung kalinisan. Dagdag na strategy lang siya. It’s not replacing any strategy; walang tatanggalin na approach,” Health Spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy told reporters on Thursday, February 11.

(The vaccine is an additional strategy we’re putting into the dengue program. The public might think because we already have a vaccine for dengue, we shouldn’t be concerned anymore about cleanliness. It’s just an additional strategy. It’s not replacing any strategy; we’re not removing any approach.)

Dengue, a disease common in tropical and sub-tropical countries in the world, is transmitted through the bite of an Aedes mosquito. Dengue fever is potentially fatal and mainly affects children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 400 million people are infected with dengue worldwide every year, two-thirds in Asia.

On Thursday, Lee Suy said even with the availability of the vaccine, actively pursuing measures against dengue – such as cleaning one’s surroundings – is still a better approach since it also targets other mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya virus and the Zika virus.

School-based immunization

The health department has allocated P3.5 billion ($73.61 million) from its savings for the purchase of the dengue vaccine, which will be given to all Grade 4 public school students (excluding those below 9 years old) in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Calabarzon beginning April.

The 3 regions recorded the most number of dengue cases in 2015. Of the total 200,415 cases recorded from January 1 to December 31, 25,208 were from NCR, 35,966 from Central Luzon, and 33,709 from Calabarzon.

Lee Suy said the government’s procurement for the school-based immunization is already being processed.

Nagcommit naman sila na naka-[sunod] sa timeline talaga kasi siyempre, naka-schedule ‘yung pagbibigay natin,” he added, referring to French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur which developed and manufactured the vaccine.

(They committed to really stick to the timeline because of course, we have already scheduled the immunization.)

Dengvaxia, which provides protection from all 4 dengue strains, will be given in 3 doses at 6-month intervals. It is recommended for all healthy individuals aged 9 years old to 45 years old.

The first dose of the dengue vaccine will be given as early as April, in hopes it would provide partial protection to students ahead of the rainy season, when the number of dengue cases is expected to soar.

Lee Suy said the school-based immunization will also be crucial as it will determine whether the vaccine can eventually be expanded to the rest of the country and be included in the health department’s budget in the coming years.

Di pa ‘to kasama sa regular budget natin…. We have to be very good with this one. We need to come up with good documentation ng lahat ng nangyayari so we can appeal it sa susunod na budget hearing natin na maipasok siya, dapat tuloy-tuloy ‘to,” he explained.

(This is not yet included in our regular budget….We have to be very good with this one. We need to come up with good documentation of everything that will happen so we can appeal it in our next budget hearings and include it in our budget in the coming years.)

In 2015, the health department’s budget for its dengue control program was only P330 million ($6.94 million), despite WHO’s 2015 report on neglected tropical diseases which placed the Philippines among countries in the Western Pacific with the highest dengue incidence in recent years.

US$1 = P47.55


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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.