Duterte to public: Don’t be afraid of vaccines

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte to public: Don�t be afraid of vaccines
Duterte said parents have other options if they do not trust Dengvaxia, the anti-dengue vaccine blamed for the deaths of some students.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday urged parents not to fear vaccines as he expressed concern about the decrease in immunization coverage among children because of the Dengvaxia fiasco. 

Duterte said parents have other options if they do not trust Dengvaxia, the anti-dengue vaccine blamed for the deaths of some students.

“Since the controversy, many families in the Philippines, not just in Malabon, were scared of vaccination. They do not want it anymore,” the President said during the groundbreaking of a hospital in Malabon.  

“Do not be lulled and be complacent about it because a baby really needs it. If you do not want Dengvaxia, that’s OK,” he added. 

Duterte said vaccines are “good” for the health of children and can protect them from illnesses like measles, polio and hepatitis. 

“You can compare it with the civil registrar, even the number of children who were given vaccines. Apparently there is a great drop,” the President said. 

“They are afraid. They think it is dangerous. But based on statistics, we have 110 million people. If two or three die because of that, it does not set a trend or record. On the other hand, it is alarming to government for people to shy away from vaccination for their children,” he added. 

The P3.5-billion Dengvaxia project, which was implemented during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III, sparked outrage after it was revealed that the vaccine may have placed students who never had dengue at risk of contracting a more serious illness.

Aquino has denied disregarding the safety of students who were given the vaccine and decried the supposed politicization of the issue. 

Charges have been filed against incumbent and former Department of Health (DOH) officials, executives of Dengvaxia-maker Sanofi Pasteur and pharmaceutical firm Zuellig Pharma Corp. over the deaths of some students who received the vaccine.

Following Duterte’s call, the DOH assured parents yesterday that it has always been ready to vaccinate.     

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, parents should not let their children miss out on the free vaccines being given by the agency under its Expanded Program on Immunization. 

“I am very thankful to President Duterte for making this call. I am appealing to parents to take this opportunity to protect their children from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination,” Duque said.

In a phone interview, Duque also appealed to critics of the dengue-vaccination campaign to stop spreading “lies and misinformation” as this gravely affects the government’s immunization program.

Duque also urged the public yesterday to build up their resistance and ward off illnesses.

According to Duque, cases of influenza-like illnesses usually increase during cold weather but this can be avoided if people observe healthy lifestyle.

“We can easily avoid them as long is we take care of ourselves properly. We need to strengthen our resistance primarily by exercising,” he said.

Duque advised the public to drink seven to eight glasses of water every day and juices that are high in vitamins.

The DOH chief noted that vitamins A, B, C, E and zinc are also good for the body, with zinc strengthening the throat against infections like laryngeal pharyngitis. 

Duque added that there is a need to strictly practice proper hygiene and sanitation. – With Sheila Crisostomo

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