The public should not panic over Japanese encephalitis (JE) amid reports of shortage of the vaccine for the disease in hospitals and clinics in the country.
“There is no need to panic because, in fact, physicians have actually been giving this vaccine at least in private practice because it’s recommended in our immunization schedule already since 2016,” Salvacion Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said in a news briefing on Wednesday at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.
She warned online purchasers of the vaccine to be careful and verify if the medicine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“In the Philippines, there is only one [vaccine]duly licensed by the Philippine FDA, and this is the live attenuated recombinant chimeric vaccine,” Gatchalian said.
In the same forum, Sanofi Pasteur Philippines country regulatory affairs head Jervin Papelleras said their company is the duly licensed manufacturer of the only registered vaccine for Japanese encephalitis in the Philippines.
Papelleras added that there is no scarcity of the vaccine and they are working on meeting increased public demand for it.
“The company is now exerting all efforts to meet this unexpected increasing demand in line with its purpose in ensuring that the public is provided protection against this deadly disease,” he said.
Along with the FDA, Papelleras added that they have released health advisories to the general public on the Japanese encephalitis vaccine.
In an advisory dated September 6, the FDA also warned the public against the purchase of the vaccine from online sellers and other unauthorized distributors or retailers.
The vaccine’s price ranges from P2,000 to P4,000 and is available in authorized clinics and hospitals, according to Papellares.
It is a viral disease passed on to humans through the bite of the Culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquito, a species of mosquito that is active during day and night.
It is characterized by inflammation of the brain and most persons who get infected have no obvious signs and symptoms five to 15 days after being bitten by a mosquito.
Children are commonly infected by the disease.
Signs and symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion and in severe cases, neck stiffness, seizures, paralysis and coma that may lead to death.
The Department of Health is planning on including the JE vaccine in its free immunization program next year.
A recent report said that from January 1 to August 26, the Health department recorded seven deaths in Central Luzon–four in Pampanga, two in Zambales and one in Nueva Ecija.
Pangasinan in Northern Luzon and Laguna in Calabarzon recorded one death each.
There are 133 laboratory-confirmed cases this year with cases mostly coming from Central Luzon.