Issue of December 10, 2017
     
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EDITORIAL

PUTTING LIVES AT RISK WITH DENGVAXIA


While the Health agency claims the Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine, will still protect people from the disease, somebody must be held responsible and should pay severely in the botched immunization program of the country using the vaccine that may have put to risk close to a million Filipinos, mostly children.

To hold someone responsible is the only way that justice could be attained by would-be victims whose health and lives may be in danger after they were administered with the vaccine instead of gaining protection against the fatal dengue virus due to the belated warning by manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur that it may lead to more severe cases of dengue on individuals who had not been infected by the virus prior to immunization.

The manufacturer issued the warning on Nov. 29, two years after the government cleared and launched the Dengvaxia for use in the country, and after the vaccine was given to 830,000 schools children, who were not screened so that only those who have already been sick with dengue should receive the shots.

As pundits put it, Filipinos seemed to have been practically made guinea pigs. We deserve to know whether it is just one of the many lapses in judgment or whether deceit was involved, such as if the manufacturer may have knowingly withheld the “warning” to secure the deal first with the Philippine government to supply the country with P3 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine.

It is unfortunate that the Department of Health launched the vaccination program in April 4, 2016 in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon, three areas where dengue cases are high, 14 days before the World Health Organization’s Strategic Group of Experts published its preliminary advice on Dengvaxia. The WHO said it did not recommend to countries the introduction of the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs, but should instead take into account the series of considerations and its possible risks, based on a review of data at the time.

We do not find comfort in knowing that no gradeschoolerin the Cordillera was given the risky dengue vaccine as announced by the DOH regional office last Dec. 5, knowing that 830,000 Filipino gradeschoolers and their families, not counting those who may have taken the vaccine through private clinics, are now at risk and justifiably in panic.

They are now like time bombs waiting to explode – just because some quarters didn’t seem to understand that a “warning” is supposed to come before the deed.

With the suspension of the vaccination program by DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III and the recall of Dengvaxia off the shelves until Sanofi makes the adjustments to include the “new warning” label in its package, it is easy for us now to point fingers on who to blame for this grave concern that is close to being a crime against humanity.

But most urgent now is for concerned officials and medical experts to find remedies that will counter the effects possibly wrought by the administration of Dengvaxia to those who are not supposed to receive it. Whether or not we find those responsible for what happened to them, we know that close to a million lives are now at risk and due diligence would require that we must do everything to save them.

The rest of us should also do our part in the fight against dengue by following advice and listening to the precautions in order to prevent the spread of dengue. It is time for everybody to recognize the effectiveness and to practice the time-honored 4S habit: search and destroy mosquito breeding places; use self-protection measures; seek early consultation for fever lasting more than two days; and say no to indiscriminate fogging. With these practices, combined with cleanliness and discipline, perhaps we can remain safeuntil– and even after – a proven effective dengue antidote comes available, hopefully then without the risks.

 

 

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