Senator Grace Poe is urging local government units (LGUs) to help the Department of Health (DOH) in disseminating information about the Dengvaxia vaccine, which has caused fear among families of those who had received it.
“We seek the assistance of local government units in disseminating information coming from the DOH and other government agencies,” Poe said in a statement Thursday.
For its part, the national government should help LGUs by providing funds and resources for an information drive, noting that “at stake here are the lives of our children,” the senator said.
Poe issued the appeal as she stressed the importance of monitoring the children who have been given the anti-dengue shots.
“It is important to account for children who received the vaccine amid new developments on its effects. Strict surveillance must be established to monitor any adverse effects and ensure that proper assistance will be given to those affected,” Poe said.
Her statement came in the wake of the DOH’s suspension of its P3.5-billion anti-dengue vaccination program after French pharmaceutical Sanofi Pasteur said Dengvaxia “must be strictly limited due to evidence it could worsen the disease in people not previously exposed to the infection.”
Sanofi’s warning came a year after foreign health experts warned of potentially higher risks of severe dengue if the vaccine was not administered correctly, Poe said.
The DOH suspended the program as Health Secretary Francisco Duque III ordered close monitoring of all children who received Dengvaxia injections since 2016.
“The DOH should focus on the kids given the shots and determine if any medical intervention is needed given the information about the vaccine’s effects,” Poe added.
The lawmaker also filed Senate Resolution No. 563 calling for a full-blown Senate inquiry into why the inoculation program was hastily approved amid still ongoing trials on the vaccine.
Poe said the government should be ready to create a comprehensive database of people who have been injected with Dengvaxia, including those who have not been infected and those who have prior exposures, and determine any adverse effects on them.
Poe also directed the DOH to exercise “due diligence” before undertaking such a massive program.
“Due diligence on the effects of the drugs should have been observed and clear lines of protocols should have been established before allowing vaccines to be administered to large groups, especially children,” she said.
“DOH officials have a sworn duty to uphold and safeguard public health,” Poe said, and they are duty-bound “to exercise caution and prudence in the formulation of health programs,” she added.
The Philippines rolled out the anti-dengue vaccine early last year under Former Health Secretary Janette Garin and was continued under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Around 700,000 public school children have received the Dengvaxia vaccine. /cbb