By Genalyn Kabiling and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has called on parents to let their children be immunized to protect them from diseases despite the controversy generated by the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The President assured the parents that not all vaccines are “deleterious or dangerous,” as he expressed concern over the decreasing number of children inoculated to combat certain diseases.
“One is ‘yung Dengvaxia. Simula ‘yung nagkaroon ng gulo dito maraming mga pamilya dito sa Pilipinas, hindi lang sa Malabon, na natakot ng mga itong vaccination at ayaw na [One is Dengvaxia. Since the controversy started, many families in the Philippines, not only in Malabon, are afraid of vaccination. They dislike it],” Duterte said during the groundbreaking of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Malabon City Tuesday.
“Do not be lulled and be complacent about it kasi ang sanggol talaga kailangan. Iyong Dengvaxia lang kung ayaw ninyo okay lang [Do not be lulled and be complacent about it because the baby needs it. If you don’t like Dengvaxia, it’s okay],” he told the parents.
Duterte told the parents about the integrity of the government’s immunization program, citing the administration’s commitment to ensure public health.
“Hindi naman lahat bakuna ‘yung deleterious or dangerous. Proven naman ‘yan [Not all vaccines are deleterious or dangerous. They are proven],” he said.
“Lahat ng anak ninyo hindi naman tayo nagkulang sa bakuna eh ‘di – because it is good and it is for the health of the person noong maliit pa hanggang lumaki,” he said.
Government records show a “great drop” in the immunization coverage in the country. The President lamented there were fewer children vaccinated to help combat illness such as measles, hepatitis, polio, and tetanus.
“It is alarming to government for people to shy away from vaccination for their children,” he said.
The Department of Health earlier pulled out the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia amid the alleged health risks facing inoculated children. Complaints have been filed against certain health officials and the pharmaceutical executives over the deaths of children allegedly caused by the Dengvaxia vaccine.
The deaths have triggered fear among parents who refuse to enrol they kids in the government-sponsored immunization programs.
At the groundbreaking of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Malabon city, the President vowed to improve government hospitals to deliver better services to the Filipino people.
“I will guarantee you na uunahin ko talaga ‘yang medisina sa lahat. Iyan ang pinakamahirap ‘yang makita ko … iyong tao na…dala lang sa reseta, hindi niya malaman kung saan niya kunin [ang pambayad] (that I will prioritize medicine for all. That’s the most difficult thing I see because people have prescriptions but don’t know where to get money for it). But at least during my term,” Duterte said.
The President said he plans to use half of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) funds so that there will be medicine for all, especially the poor.
Duterte admitted he could not bear to see people worrying about the cost of their medical treatment.
“The medicines will have to be sourced from the money that Pagcor makes, at least a good portion. Maybe half of it,” Duterte said.
“Kasi yung iba ipapa-repair mo ‘yung mga hospital ganun, whatever. Pero there… Ang gusto ko kasi, there will never be a lack of medicines for the people [Other funds will be used to repair hospitals and others. I would like to ensure there will never be a lack of medicines for the people],” he added.
“Uubusin ko ‘yang pera ng Pagcor. Tutal gambling ‘yan. [laughter] Eh ano nga kita ng gambling ‘yan eh. Eh ‘di ibubuhos ko doon [I will use up the Pagcor funds.
After all, it came from gambling. I will pour the funds there],” he added.
The hospital, which will be expanded from a 10-bed capacity San Lorenzo Ruiz Women’s Hospital to a 200-bed capacity general hospital, was “truly a promising development,” Duterte said.
The health facility would soon serve not only the people of Malabon, but also patients coming from adjoining areas such as Camanava and Bulacan.
“I reiterate this administration’s resolute commitment to enhance and strengthen the operational capabilities of government hospitals to cope with the healthcare and medical needs of the Filipinos, especially the poor and the marginalized,” he said.
Back in 2016, the President first announced plans to use a portion of Pagcor earnings for health-related projects, including free medicines for poor patients. He previously directed Pacgor to set aside P2 billion for the government’s free medicine project.