‘Vaccine hesitancy’ has dropped in Philippines, says Duque

MANILA, Oct 10 (Mabuhay) — The apprehensions of Filipino parents to have their children vaccinated have already died down, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday.

“Kung pagbabatayan natin ang immunization coverage ng polio last year, mukhang ‘yung vaccine hesitancy bumagsak na,” Duque told senators as he defended the proposed P203.74 billion budget of the Department of Health for 2021.

“Malaki na ang ibinawas ng vaccine hesitancy at saka ‘yung takot o ‘yung kanilang alinlangan na magpabakuna. Mukhang bumalik na ang tiwala ng mga nanay sa bakuna ng gobyerno,” he added.

In 2017, the controversy on the world’s first anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia stirred fears among parents after its French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur announced that the vaccine may lead to more severe symptoms of dengue for those who have never been infected by the virus prior to vaccination.

The government’s dengue immunization program, which by then had reached more than 800,000 school children, was suspended shortly after the Sanofi disclosure. Several complaints were filed over children’s deaths that were supposedly linked to the vaccine.

The Dengvaxia scare resulted in low immunization coverage and even caused a spike in the number of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles in the Philippines.

To date, the national immunization coverage in the country still ranges around 67% to 69%, falling short of the target of 95%, according to the DOH chief.

Duque said the pandemic also affected the roll out of the government’s immunization program this year but he said the DOH is doing its best to facilitate it.

“[May] supplemental immunization activities na isasagawa itong Oktubre for measles from 9 months to 59 months, and polio naman po 0-59 months of age.

Naghahabol po tayo,” he said.

The national immunization program has been given P7.54 billion this year.

For 2021, the DOH earmarked P10 billion for it, and P2.5 billion of which would be for COVID-19 vaccines intended for priority target groups.  (MNS)

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