Dengvaxia scare: ‘Fear of losing my children is suffocating me’
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Bea, a mother of three, has been losing sleep these days.
Reports about deaths of children as a result of the antidengue Dengvaxia vaccine have been swirling in her mind.
Her biggest worry: What if my child dies next?
Bea’s 9-year-old son was vaccinated with Dengvaxia. She did not tell her husband about it.
“I keep blaming myself,” she said. Her son’s pediatrician had recommended the vaccine.
Bea, who owns a small business here, said she had her son vaccinated with Dengvaxia because among her three children, he was the most sickly.
Also, when her son got vaccinated, it was a period of fear as the number of dengue cases here was alarmingly high.
Her son’s doctor, who was also her friend, suggested she try Dengvaxia. “I agreed and it has been a nightmare for me since,” said Bea, who wanted to remain anonymous because her husband doesn’t know yet that their son had been injected with the controversial drug created by giant French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi.
Like Bea, Amira, a Basilan government employee, was also drawn to Dengvaxia’s promise of protection against dengue.
She had her two daughters — aged 6 and 10 — vaccinated. The anguish is now consuming her. “The fear of losing my two children is suffocating me,” Amira said.
According to Amira, her children’s pediatrician had endorsed the vaccine.
In the city alone, the Western Mindanao office of the Department of Health (DOH) is monitoring the health of at least 136 children who got injected with Dengvaxia.
Dr. Roland Bucoy, a medical officer of the DOH in Western Mindanao, said among those being monitored were children from the island-provinces of Sulu and Basilan, who were administered the vaccine by private practitioners.
“Majority of them are from Zamboanga City, but a number of them are from Basilan and Sulu,” Bucoy said.
She said the DOH hired nurses for the job. The monitoring will be for a five-year period.
Bea and Amira said it appeared their children were not among those being monitored as no one from the DOH had approached them yet.
The fear that something bad would happen to their children was getting worse by the day, the two mothers said.
“Every time my son gets sick, I think of jumping off a building,” Bea said.
Don’t blame doctors
Amira said she could not do anything for now but to put her trust in Allah.
Dr. Dulce Amor Miravite, officer-in-charge of the city health office, said city health workers could only monitor and provide care to children who would get sick as a result of Dengvaxia.
But doctors could not be held accountable for children who get sick because of Dengvaxia, said Miravite.
“Nobody thought this would happen,” she said. The vaccines were administered for free in the National Capital Region (NCR), which added to the allure of Dengvaxia.
Some private doctors in this city were able to get Dengvaxia in NCR “and they gave it to children here and at random.”
“Parents wanted themselves to avail of it,” said Miravite. “It’s their discretion,” she added.
But doctors should not be blamed for the fear that now grips parents because of Dengvaxia.
“Doctors did not know this will happen,” said Miravite. “It was in good faith,” she said. —Julie S. Alipala
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