DOH tracks down kids immunized in C. Luzon
Health of schoolchildren in launching area of antidengue vaccine closely monitored
By Allan Macatuno
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2017-12-07 06:30:46

Then President Benigno Aquino III (center), then Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. (left) and then Health Secretary Janette Garin (lower right) lead the ceremonial launch of the dengue school-based immunization program in Iba town, Zambales province, in April 2016. —MALACAÑANG FILE PHOTO

OLONGAPO CITY — The government is closely monitoring the health of more than 3,400 children who had been vaccinated with Dengvaxia, the dengue vaccine that its maker has said could worsen the disease in some cases.

The children received the dengue shot last year during the launching of the Department of Health (DOH) dengue immunization program in Central Luzon.

In Zambales, an Aeta student was the first in the province to receive the vaccine.

Touted as the world’s first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia was given to schoolchildren aged 9 all over the country in April 2016.

Then President Benigno Aquino III witnessed the ceremonial vaccination held at People’s Park in front of the Zambales capitol in Iba town.

Last week, the government suspended the immunization program after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur warned that Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.

Dr. Rodrick Bustamante, head of the city health office, said health authorities had placed the schoolchildren under surveillance.

“What we’re trying to prevent is for these students to get infected by the dengue virus. So far, we have not encountered any problem [related to that],” Bustamante said.

He said doctors, nurses and other medical workers in Central Luzon met on Monday at Clark Freeport in Pampanga province to discuss how they could prevent any of the vaccinated children from suffering severe reactions.

“Upon the directive of the regional health office in Central Luzon, we will conduct ‘adverse-effect’ monitoring and reporting until 2021,” Bustamante said.

“Our health center workers in the city are aware of the issue about Dengvaxia. If parents think that their [Dengvaxia immunized] children have dengue, they should be tested right away,” he said.

According to Bustamante, the protocol in the aftermath of the Dengvaxia controversy requires dengue patients to be taken to James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital here and eventually transferred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for further examination and treatment.

“Parents should not worry about the financial issues. If the student was previously given Dengvaxia, the local government will provide financial assistance,” Bustamante said.

In Manila, lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr. on Wednesday urged parents of the schoolchildren who got vaccine shots to file a class suit against Sanofi and government officials responsible for the immunization program.

“What the parents will ask the court, by way of a class suit, is for Sanofi to be ordered to put up a trust fund to cover medical treatment and medication of the children who will be affected by the adverse effects of Dengvaxia,” Francisco told the Inquirer.

Asked what would be the basis of the class suit when those given the shots had yet to see the adverse effect of the vaccine on them, Francisco said it would be based on the admission made by Sanofi as well as the testimonies of experts. —With reports from Tina G. Santos and Gabriel Cardinoza

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