Mending mistrust
(The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2019 - 12:00am

In light of this measles outbreak, the DOH should stop blaming the parents for the now-declared epidemic. The Department of Health should instead be honest about their failures in the government’s vaccination programs over the past few years, as pointed out by civil society groups and international organizations such as UNICEF.

Repeated warnings over low vaccination rates and poor health service delivery show that this public health failure was waiting to happen, perhaps regardless of Dengvaxia.

The problem with the DOH’s attempt at public relations is that, to allay fears about Dengvaxia in the light of the measles epidemic, one has to restore the eroded trust not just in vaccination but in the broken health system. And that involves three important things: (1) grounded and sensitive health education in all communities; (2) ensuring health services that are available, accessible, free, comprehensive and progressive; and more importantly, (3) accountability for failed policies – namely, the Dengvaxia fiasco in itself, as well as the shortcomings in vaccination way before 2016.

Meanwhile, the healthcare workers, especially those in the frontlines facing the brunt of the epidemic, and the DOH must help in adopting a stance that meets the people where they are, with acceptable and sensitive advice that does not disregard genuine concerns and fears as mere superstition or ignorance. Health workers should start where the community is, in order to begin mending the mistrust.

Ultimately, servants of the people must ever be ready to accept criticism and be sincere in correcting past mistakes. – JOSHUA L. SAN PEDRO, MD, Co-convener, Coalition for People’s Right to Health,

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