Get kids inoculated, gov’t urges parents
The government urged parents to have their children inoculated against diseases after the Department of Health (DOH) expressed fear of a measles outbreak in 2021 because its immunization drive reached only 67 percent this year.
“[President Duterte’s] message to parents is, do not fear vaccines,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday, referring to the fear parents expressed after more than 600 people, mostly children, who were inoculated by the now-banned Dengvaxia vaccine died in 2019.
But Roque said “the measles vaccine is one of the oldest, earliest vaccines that we have. Why should we expose our children to the possibility of illness if we have a tried and proven vaccine against it?”
He acknowledged that parents’ fear, sparked by the Dengvaxia incident, might have been compounded by the raging novel coronavirus, but the “measles vaccine has been in use for a very long time, so there is no reason to fear it,” Roque said, adding that the government distributes the measles vaccine for children at no cost.
He made the remarks after DOH national immunization program manager Dr. Maria Wilda Silva said a measles outbreak was likely next year, even as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
Silva said the immunization drive only reached 67 percent of its target in 2020, which means that 23 percent who did not get the measles vaccine are susceptible to the infection.
A highly contagious disease, measles can cause high fever, rashes, cough and eye infection. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia, blindness and swelling of the brain.
The DOH said it would conduct a nationwide measles, rubella, and polio supplemental immunization activity starting Oct. 26.
COVID-19 vaccine coming
Roque also reiterated the President’s assurance that a vaccine against COVID-19 is soon to be available.
He cited an article in The New Yorker Magazine on a reported vaccine being used in China under an emergency-use approval of the Chinese government.
“A little more patience. The President has promised to spend public funds to give COVID-19 vaccines to the poor,” Roque said. Philippine vaccine experts have been reviewing the applications of three vaccine developers who want to conduct the final third phase of their clinical trials in the country.
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, said the three vaccine makers which have applications for clinical trials are: China’s Sinovac, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and Belgium-based Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Gamaleya was the first to submit an application, which is now facing a second round of evaluation.
“We are on our second round because our vaccine expert panel is looking for additional data. We are carefully scrutizining this to ensure that the clinical trials to be done here will be safe,” Montoya said in a Laging Handa public briefing.Sinovac was the latest to submit its application to the Philippine government earlier this month.
“They submitted their application I think Oct. 1 or 2. They have complete documents so this is being studied as well,” Montoya said.
The government recently reduced the four-week evaluation of applications for Phase 3 clinical trials to 14 days.
The third phase of clinical trials for vaccines will involve the inoculation of thousands of patients to assess the safety and efficacy of potential vaccines against COVID-19.
The President has previously expressed optimism about the vaccine being developed by China, while also welcoming Russia’s own vaccine.
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