High zero-vax rate vs certain diseases in PH worry experts
CEBU CITY — Healthcare experts have expressed concern over reports that the Philippines is among the countries with the highest number of unvaccinated individuals against certain diseases.
They said the country needs to step up its campaign in preventing several diseases, including dengue and human papillomavirus (HPV).
“As physicians, we are sad and actually ashamed as Filipinos that we are one of the countries with the highest number of zero vaccination,” said Dr. Jonathan Lim, overall chairman of the 24th Philippine National Immunization Conference held in Cebu City last week.
The high rate of zero vaccination was blamed on the Dengvaxia controversy which resulted in hesitancy and the no-contact policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lim, a pediatric infectious diseases expert, said a new dengue vaccine was expected to arrive in the country next year and that people should not fear this despite the controversies surrounding Dengvaxia.
He said the new dengue vaccine could be available for free through the government or commercially via private sector or pharmaceutical companies.
“The good thing is that the new vaccine that is coming in the Philippines is actually a different vaccine,” Lim said in an interview at the sidelines of the conference in this city.
“It is a different kind of vaccine and it is shown to be safer and works better.”
The 24th Philippine National Immunization Conference was attended by more than 600 doctors, nurses, midwives, and pharmacists.
Healthcare experts also pushed for an early vaccination for children against HPV as young as 9 years old.
HPV infections can cause certain cancers in men and women. It can also cause cancers of the cervix, anus, and oropharynx, among others. Vaccination against HPV can prevent over 90 percent of cancers caused by the virus.
Lim said the HPV vaccine “works better in these young children compared with young people” based on scientific studies on children who had been vaccinated.
Dr. Mitzi Maria Chua, an adult infectious diseases specialist, said HPV is common and that 8 of 10 sexually active people, men, and women across all age groups, get infected, while some do not even know they already have it.
“Many people may not be aware that they have acquired HPV and may not have any signs or symptoms,” she said.
She said persistent infection could lead to certain cancers and other HPV-related diseases.
“Sexually active females and males remain vulnerable to HPV-related cancers and diseases throughout their lifespan,” she said.
Despite this alarming public health issue, she said the majority of adults are unaware that HPV is associated with cancers other than cervical cancer, and that it could only infect people in polygamous relationships.