EDITORIAL - Preventable diseases
(The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2019 - 12:00am

A fake news report circulated recently about certain members of prominent families landing in the intensive care unit or even dying of a severe strain of pneumonia. The story has been debunked by health authorities.

Health professionals, however, are warning the public that there has been a real increase in cases of influenza A and B in the country in recent months. They are urging the public to get vaccinated for two strains of each of the influenza types.

The health professionals are attributing the increase to two possible reasons: an early flu season, or the drop in all types of vaccination last year. Doctors and other health professionals have lamented that the scare over the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, while it has some basis, has also led to an alarming plunge in vaccinations for other afflictions.

These days, even when it comes to vaccines that have been in use for decades worldwide, many Filipino families are shunning the drugs. This could lead to a public health problem in the near future, especially in impoverished communities where families lack a nuanced appreciation of vaccine programs.

Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur is facing court cases for its failure to detect early on that the vaccine could pose serious health risks for those who have never had dengue. Several officials of the previous administration also face criminal cases for the vaccination of nearly a million schoolchildren with Dengvaxia, with what critics say was undue haste.

Certain medical professionals have pointed out that Dengvaxia has been found to be effective for those who already have a history of dengue. Still, the scare over this vaccine is unlikely to die down soon. Doctors and various hospitals nevertheless continue to promote the use of Dengvaxia, which is so far the only approved anti-dengue vaccine. The drug remains commercially available in several countries, with sufficient warnings provided about its safe use.

Health professionals are trying to dispel the vaccine scare so that people, especially children, can benefit from the various vaccination programs, many of which are provided for free to low-income families by the government.

For decades, vaccines have drastically reduced infant mortality and many other deaths and lifetime debilitation from illnesses including polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella and Hepatitis A and B. Vaccines have also been effective against several flu strains. The government must do more to confront the vaccine scare before the drastic decline in vaccination leads to a public health crisis.

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