DOH upbeat on potential of dengue vaccine

- Sheila Crisostomo -

MANILA, Philippines - The anti-dengue vaccine being developed in the Philippines is showing potential and could boost global efforts to combat the mosquito-borne disease, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said yesterday.

In a press briefing, Ona said the vaccine might be available in two years’ time as initial studies proved to be “ very successful.”

“A big part of the study is being done in the Philippines. It is not yet known how much it will cost. Southeast Asia, South America and the southern part of the United States are affected by dengue so pricing might be in consonance with the capacity of countries to absorb the cost,” he said.

The vaccine is being developed in the laboratories of the Department of Health (DOH)’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicines in Cebu and Laguna, by Filipino and foreign experts.

DOH director for Metro Manila Dr. Ed Janairo said the Philippines was chosen because it is one of the nations affected by dengue.

“We also have experts, the facility, the data and the surveillance system. There are four strains of dengue and you can find them all here,” he added.

He said two international pharmaceutical companies and some international funding agencies are bankrolling the study.

But he said the vaccine will have to be approved by international pharmacy groups and ethical groups before it can be administered on humans.

“It will go through various processes.  Maybe in late 2013 or early 2014, it will be out in the market already,” Janairo said.

DOST to provide mosquito trap kits to affected areas

Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is set to roll out some 81,000 kits of mosquito ovicidal larvicidal (OL) trap in Metro Manila and provinces that have been reported to have high incidence of dengue. 

DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute (STII) director Raymund Liboro said that they would be distributing OL trap kits to government-run elementary and high schools in Quezon City, Caloocan, Valenzuela City, Manila, Pasig, Pasay and Muntinlupa starting Monday. 

He said selected provinces such as Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet and some parts of Pangasinan will also have their share of the anti-mosquito kits. 

The Department of Education (DepEd) is also requesting that some schools in Regions 9 and 12 be given OL Trap kits.  

“After our partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), we would have a new tie up with the Department of Education (DepEd). With the DOH we concentrated on the communities, now with the DepEd we would target the schools,” Liboro said. 

He said the government’s campaign against dengue-carrying mosquitoes in educational institutions should be strengthened, since many children are in school during the “biting time” of these mosquitoes.

The DOH earlier said that a majority of the dengue victims belong to the school age bracket.

About 2,800 dengue cases were students from public schools while a small number of victims were recorded in private-run schools, according to DepEd.

DOST said DepEd Undersecretary Rizalino Rivera instructed NCR school division superintendents to distribute OL traps to all schools in their respective divisions and assign students to monitor these traps.  

He said initial results from different regions detected a decline in dengue cases after using the OL traps. This improvement was seen in Region 2 where at least five schools in Ballesteros and Claveria towns in Cagayan, which were declared as “hotspots” last year, have so far reported “zero cases.”

DOH records showed there are 45,333 dengue cases in the Philippines from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. This figure is 33.5 percent lower than the 68,168 cases during the same period last year.

In 2010, the DOH had registered around 125,000 cases due to the circulation of four dengue strains across the country.

The DOH and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) meanwhile, initiated a bloodletting campaign to dramatize the need for Filipinos to engage in blood donation.

Running priest Fr. Robert Reyes and doctors from the Makati Medical Society, led the bloodletting at the DOH central office in Tayuman, Manila.

In a press briefing, DOH Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial has assured the public that donating blood is not harmful to one’s health.

“We hope to attain a blood donation campaign that is 100 percent voluntary and 100 percent unlink. The meaning of unlink is that you don’t donate because you have a relative or a friend who needs blood. Unlink means you are donating because you want to donate,” she said.

She said a person could donate blood three to four times a year, adding that the bone marrow generates new blood every time a person donates blood.

But Ubial said the bloodletting campaign has nothing to do with dengue since the number of cases is lower compared to last year’s.  With Evelyn Macairan









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