By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
To prove that the controversial Dengvaxia is safe, members of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health experts should vaccinate themselves with it, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has dared.
This, after President Duterte said he was open to making Dengvaxia available again in the Philippines after the Department of Health (DOH) declared a national dengue epidemic Tuesday.
READ MORE: Duterte open to using Dengvaxia anew
Data from the DOH showed that some 146,000 dengue cases were reported as of July 20 this year, which is almost twice the number of cases reported on the same time last year.
“Wala naman po tayong klarong gamot for prevention po nito dahil ang Dengvaxia naman po, takot ‘yung tao, at sabi nga ni Pangulong Duterte, kailangan pa ng mga experts bago po ito pwedeng gamitin ulit (We don’t have a clear medicine for prevention of dengue since the people are still scared of Dengvaxia. President Duterte said experts’ opinions are needed before this is used again),” he told reporters at the sidelines of the inauguration of the country’s 40th Malasakit Center in Valenzuela City Friday.
“‘Di po ako ganon ka-kumbinsido. Para ma-kumbinsi ako, kailangan ‘yung experts ‘yung magpa-turok (I am not that convinced that Dengvaxia is safe. To convince me, the experts must be the ones to get themselves vaccinated),” he added.
Go, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said the Dengvaxia’s safety must be proven to ease the people’s fear that there will be side effects once the vaccine is administered.
In February, the FDA permanently revoked Dengvaxia’s certificate of product registration. A year prior to this, French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, its maker, admitted that those who received the vaccine but have not had dengue may experience more severe symptoms in the future, but only after more than 800,000 schoolchildren have already been vaccinated.
The Dengvaxia scare led to the decrease of immunization rates around the country, which is linked to the outbreak of measles, a vaccine-preventable disease, early this year.
Former President Benigno Aquino III, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, and other former government officials are now facing charges for the Dengvaxia scandal, since the anti-dengue program was implemented during their time in office.
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) also said the Dengvaxia could be linked to the deaths of about 30 people when it filed complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ). However, this has yet to be proven.
Meanwhile, Go called on residents to follow the advice of health professionals and to observe the 4S’s in fighting dengue – search and destroy mosquito-breeding sights, seek early consultation, secure self-protection measures, and support fogging and spraying in hotspot areas.
The senator also said he and his camp were in talks with hospitals all over the country to establish express lanes at the Malasakit Centers for dengue patients.
The Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop where impoverished patients can meet and transact with desk representatives from various government organizations such as the DOH, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippine Health Insurance Company (Philhealth), and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) without having to leave the hospital.