CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Local health authorities in Northern Mindanao were grateful the region was excluded in the anti-dengue vaccination program of the government following the warning from its manufacturer that it can have potential effects to those who were inoculated.
Although Cagayan de Oro posted a high number of dengue cases last year, city health officer Dr. Fe Bongcas said she had her reservations when Dengvaxia was released and distributed to various schools in the National Capital Region and two more regions in Luzon last year.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), close to a million pupils were inoculated with Dengvaxia, made by Sanofi Pasteur.
However, Sanofi Pasteur posted on its website on Nov. 29 an official statement saying that those who are injected with the vaccine but have not been infected with the dengue virus are in danger of contracting “more cases of severe disease” that could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection.
When Dengvaxia was pilot-tested in those regions, Bongcas said she was apprehensive of its effectiveness since it was the first time that the vaccine was tested on the population.
“I had apprehensions about it (Dengvaxia),” she said, adding that since the vaccine was new, further study must be made to ensure it is safe for people.
Although Cagayan de Oro and the rest of the region were excluded in the pilot areas to be tested, Bongcas said she will not even recommend it.
The city health recorded 2,107 dengue cases, with six deaths last year. As of Dec. 6, there are 1,574 cases with eight mortalities, this year.
“I was thankful we were not included because that will be a big problem (for us),” she said.
Had the city been included as one of the pilot areas, Bongcas said it would have affected the city health department’s regular immunization programs after reports came out regarding Dengvaxia’s possible side effects to schoolchildren, especially those who have not yet been infected with the dengue virus.
At present, the local health office is implementing the inoculation of vaccines for DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), polio, and other potential diseases, with infants and minors as primary recipients.
Even now, parents have expressed fear of the effects of those primary vaccines that have been around for decades and have already immunized millions of children nationwide, she said.
Bongcase said she has already advised the city’s health workers on the field to explain and assure parents that Dengvaxia is a different vaccine and that the current vaccines such as DPT being administered to their children are proven to be safe.
For his part, Misamis Oriental provincial health officer Dr. Jerie Calingasan said when DOH began injecting Dengvaxia to the pilot areas, there were no clear guidelines on who should receive it.
He said the vaccine is intended for people who are “zero positive” or those who already have contracted the dengue virus and therefore had developed antibodies in their system.
Antibodies are proteins produced a by person’s body to combat pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
Calingasan said health authorities in those pilot areas failed to check if those immunized already have antibodies.
“The vaccine itself is okay, but they should have made a thorough laboratory examination (before releasing it),” he said.
He said his office had requested for the Dengvaxia last August as he wanted the school kids in Misamis Orient to also avail of such vaccine, but now he is grateful that the province was excluded in the first wave of the anti-dengue immunization.
“It was supposed to be a vaccine for all. But we are just thankful that we were excluded in the list,” Calingasan added. (davaotoday.com)