Just asking (sincerely)

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

After writing the short piece on possible motives people may have to question or undermine the Anti-Dengue Vaccine campaign in the Philippines, I got a handful of calls, questions and tip offs from various sectors who are very concerned about the physical and financial damage caused by Dengue.

To begin with, no one seems to have realized that the Philippines was actually in the center of a medical milestone or historical event in the global fight against Dengue. We should have been making a big story about the positive development but instead the critics painted a story where Filipinos were being used as lab rats or guinea pigs. Some even asked why the vaccine had not been tested in developed countries such as the US or in Europe?

NEWFLASH: They don’t have Dengue in NON-Tropical countries where mosquitoes would freeze to death! I lived in Connecticut USA for a year and a half and the only thing that bites there are FLIES!

Just this once can, the Naysayers be honest enough about the value and urgent need for a vaccine against Dengue. We have real friends who are real people who died or lost a son or daughter to dengue. Try convincing them that a vaccine is not worth the money or the trouble people have gone through to provide one. My daughter Hannah is an only child and at our age, only the Angel Gabriel can convince me of an additional child, but otherwise, we have agreed and paid for our daughter to get the Dengue vaccination.

I will not twiddle my thumbs listening to politicians and meddlesome individuals blockade the Dengue Vaccine. I already have one “patient” who got bed ridden for a year due to secondary dengue infection that caused serious paralysis, cost me a fortune making a “special care room”, 3 oxygen bottles a week (to date), thousands of pesos a month for a therapist. I can’t even begin to do an accounting of all the Utang Na Loob I’ve incurred from physicians, nurses and friends who’ve helped us. “Charlotte” has not fully recovered, has a tube in her throat, and sits up like a Mannequin watching people go by through her window.

As usual, critics are questioning costs and prices saying that the 3-part treatment that cost P1,000 each or P3,000 for the whole program is costly or expensive. When my wife Karen got Dengue she had to have 6 separate laboratory tests during the almost 3 weeks she was fighting off Dengue. Then she had to take all sorts of medications and supplements that were certainly pricey for the average person. All that cost more than P10,000 and did not include doctor’s fees, blood or any other type of transfusion and certainly no confinement.

Had Karen gone through the normal Dengue experience that more than 150,000 Filipinos went through in 2015 or 2016, the average cost would have been P30,000. Now, there is the big number and the big picture critics don’t want to face or talk about: 4.5 Billion pesos were jointly spent by Filipinos and the Philippine government in various forms of treatment for Dengue patients only.

4.5 billion pesos was spread out among laboratories, hospitals, physicians, and drug stores and drug manufacturers. It could have been more except that the DOH and the many local governments have actively done what they could to minimize the breeding of Dengue carrying mosquitoes as well as educating the public about Dengue. Remember the P4.5 billion was all for patients who landed in hospitals as serious cases requiring hospitalization. That does not include the cost to national and local governments that wasted money in fumigation and trying to kill or eradicate Dengue carrying mosquitoes.

If naturalists, pro-environment want to do their part in eradicating Dengue carrying mosquitoes, go right ahead. But Please don’t block one solution that is showing great promise and results especially when scientists and government officials have consistently debunked your solution of concentrating on killing the mosquitoes because it is simply impossible to do so in a tropical country of 7,100 islands. Mosquitoes don’t respect PNP checkpoints or BI counters.

Finally, it might be time for the Speaker of the House to look into the Congressional investigation on the Dengue vaccine because it is puzzling that the concerned committee is asking questions about efficacy and the Bidding process while the only people opposed to the Vaccine are two individuals who have no real expertise on Dengue and Vaccines and no actual hands-on study and research on the very thing they are challenging. Whatever happened to “Probable Cause” or “Beyond reasonable doubt” or actual “Serious public concern”?

I have already raised the economics or the profit that the health providers stand to lose from the vaccine. There is also the possibility that some people want to delay the full implementation of the vaccine because the nearest competitor still needs 3 more years to come up with their version and by then Filipinos would be associating the vaccine with the first and current manufacturer. In this case, delay or deferment would be equal to economic sabotage and that’s not new in many businesses in the Philippines.

According to the news, the company who developed and provided the vaccine to the DOH spent nearly a decade in making the vaccine, has already delivered 2 out of the 3 part components, but to date has only received less than 30% of the collectibles. This is not exactly good for business considering the cost to develop, manufacture and deliver the vaccines. So here we go again. A foreign firm invests in the Philippines, creates a much needed product, gets the contract legally, provides the product and before they can actually get their money, politics and vested interest immediately pain them as the “Evil Big Pharma.” This is why our people suffer, it’s called Karma. Enough already.

E-mail: [email protected]

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