COTABATO CITY: The Dengvaxia controversy has impinged on the immunization program of the Department of Health in Region 11 (DoH 11), particularly Davao City, in the wake of a measles outbreak there affecting some 32 barangay (villages).
The parents are apprehensive that the anti-measles vaccines might have the same effect as Dengvaxia that is suspected to be the cause of the death of a dozen children in Luzon.
All children aged six to 59 months regardless of their vaccination status are given one dose of measles containing vaccine (MCV) and Vitamin A.
Abdullah Dumama Jr., assistant secretary of health for Mindanao and DoH 1I regional director, said they have conducted an Outbreak Response Immunization (ORI) to address the ongoing transmission and control the occurrence of a wider measles outbreak in the region.
“We would like to assure the public that MCV has been used for generations and is proven safe and very effective,” Dumama pointed out.
The regional health office strongly appealed to the public to trust the DoH especially the MCV that has been implemented since 1976.
The controversy over the P3.5-billion anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccination program found to be ill-suited for mass immunization has severely affected the credibility of the government’s immunization program, Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said.
Duque admitted during a Senate hearing that parents are no longer willing to subject their children to vaccinations administered by the DoH that include immunization against measles and influenza.
The Manila Times learned from a source at Davao City Health Office (DCHO) that there was an outbreak of measles in 32 villages in Davao City recently, which prompted both the regional and city health offices to conduct an ORI for anti-measles.
The Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) of DoH 11 has recorded 317 suspected cases of measles from January 1, 2017 to January 19, 2018.
A statement by the DoH-11 said it is alarming that of this number, 14 deaths were recorded as suspected measles-related.
Thirteen of these deaths were from Davao City and one from Davao del Norte.
But the DoH 11 said it was not yet confirmed if the cause of death is directly related to complications of measles.
Of the suspected cases, 49 were recorded from January 1-19, 2018 while most of the cases spiked in November and December 2017.
Lilian Domingo, a DCHO vaccinator assigned to Catalunan Pequeño Health Center, said they have to extend the house-to-house immunization to reach their target number after the refusal of some parents to have their children vaccinated.
She added that more than 8,000 kids were already given anti-measles vaccines since January 17 but they still need to immunize more than 1,000 children.
As of January 23, about 40,959 children have already been given MCV.
Twenty-five teams from the regional office were deployed to affected villages to ensure that no child is left unprotected from measles.
In Nueva Ecija, alarmed mothers stormed the city health office in Cabanatuan City on Thursday tailed by their children who had been vaccinated with Dengvaxia, after lawyer Presida Acosta, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief, went to Palayan on Wednesday to exhume the body of a child for autopsy.
Enrico Leabres, 10, died in August 2016 after given the vaccine.
The autopsy report showed Leabres died from heart attack and urinary tract infection.
Some mothers of at least 100 children reported to have gotten Dengvaxia shots from various elementary schools in Palayan City said their children often complain of fever, dizziness and nausea.
But local health authorities advised parents not to panic in the wake of PAO’s unofficial report.
No to other vaccines
Francia Britania-Malabanan, Parents Teachers Association (PTA) president of Sariaya East Central Main Elementary School (SAECMES) in Sariaya, Quezon province, said they made an official request during their meeting recently for an immunization card for all Grade 4 pupils two years ago (now Grade 6) who were inoculated with Dengvaxia.
“They didn’t give the children immunization card to entitle them for free medicines and treatments once they contracted the dengue virus,” Malabanan noted.
Only Grade 4 students then were inoculated as pilot batch.
In Lucena South 2 Elementary School, Grade 5 teacher Liezl Dala-Dagosis said they received a memorandum from the Department of Education Division Office for the Dengvaxia vaccination, despite the summer break.
They fetched the children and brought them to the school for the vaccination.
When the vaccine controversy broke out, they got scared every time their kids got fever, Dagosis said.
She added that she will no longer have her daughter undergo similar vaccination and rallied her students not to accept any vaccine from the DoH, even the seemingly harmful deworming medication.
Jocelyn Chua, Lucena City Health Officer, assured the parents whose children were inoculated with Dengvaxia that they will be given free medical treatment once they contracted dengue.
She appealed to the parents to cooperate with the local government in keeping their environment clean and help their children sustain strong resistance to the virus.
WITH REPORTS FROM CELSO M. CAJUCOM AND BELLY M. OTORDOZ