Overcome ‘vaccine fear,’ Filipinos urged

Overcome ‘vaccine fear,’ Filipinos urged

Former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin urged Filipinos to get over “vaccine fear” and have their children and elderly inoculated amid the alarming rise of pertussis cases in the country.

“This is alarming, but we can prevent the spread of the disease through vaccination and observing proper hygiene,” said Garin, who headed the Department of Health (DOH) from 2015 to 2016.

READ: 1 million pertussis vaccines to arrive in PH by June–DOH


The physician-lawmaker made the appeal as the DOH announced that it has undertaken a quick procurement of a million 5-in-1 vaccines amid increased cases of pertussis in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Visayas.


“Vaccination saves lives, so we need to catch up,” Garin said, adding that fear of vaccines has been tagged as one of the reasons why Filipinos were less inclined to get shots against vaccine-preventable diseases, like diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) .

Widespread fear of vaccine safety emerged in the country after the 2016 controversy arising from the deaths of 14 schoolchildren who died after being given Dengvaxia vaccines during Garin’s term as DOH chief.

However, DOH data showed that out of the 729,105 fourth grade students who received a Dengvaxia dose, only 14 died.

Of the 14 deaths, only three cases were shown to have been caused by dengue even after being given Dengvaxia, according to the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital task force that investigated the cases.

But the fear of vaccines that arose after the deaths were far- reaching and directly affected the 2019 measles outbreak that logged 31,056 cases with 415 deaths, DOH data showed.

Get your shots

Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag, spokesperson for the DOH, affirmed that the Dengvaxia controversy really had a serious impact on the government’s inoculation program.


Tayag said vaccine coverage hovered between 75 to 85 percent before the Dengvaxia controversy, and later dipped to 60 to 65 percent.

“The Philippines used to be admired by other nations because our vaccination coverage never went below 90 percent, especially when we began our polio immunization,” he said, referring to then Health Secretary Juan Flavier’s leadership of the agency in the 1990s.

Tayag urged Filipinos to learn more about the dangers of pertussis and the benefits of immunization, particularly since they are given free of charge in government health centers.

“This is the priority of Secretary [Teodoro] Herbosa, to bring back the golden age of vaccination under former Secretary Flavier,” he added, stressing that pertussis can be prevented by vaccines.

Tayag said the DOH has anticipated supply concerns by ordering fresh supplies of pentavalent, or 5-in-1, vaccines diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and heemophilus influenza type B.

Around 800,000 to one million doses of the pentavalent vaccine are expected to arrive in June this year, he said.

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As of March 9, Tayag said there were 453 reported pertussis cases in the country, with 35 deaths. Out of 453 patients who underwent laboratory testing, there were 167 confirmed cases.

TAGS: DoH, Garin, Health, vaccine

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