Immunization program expanded: DOH to give free dengue vaccines to Central Visayas students
May B. Miasco (The Freeman) - June 16, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The increasing dengue cases in Central Visayas have alerted the national health agency, prompting it to expand its dengue school-based immunization program to the region.

In time of the observance of the ASEAN Dengue Day yesterday, the Department of Health has announced that the dengue immunization program will be extended to Central Visayas, benefitting selected public school students.

"This year's ASEAN Dengue Day is a significant milestone in our country as we are expanding our dengue vaccination through a school-based immunization approach," said DOH Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo in a press conference held Wednesday at the Sarrosa International Hotel in Cebu City.

"We are the first country to introduce, adopt and implement the first-ever dengue vaccine through public health system and under the public school setting," Bayugo further said, echoing the statement of DOH Secretary Janette Garin.

The provision of free dengue vaccines was piloted in three regions in the country with the most number of dengue cases including deaths: Central Luzon (Region 3); CALABARZON (Region 4-A); and National Capital Region.

Central Visayas used to be at the fourth spot since January 1, but the recent data showed the figure in the region has increased, surpassing NCR's.

"We selected the top three regions with the most number of dengue cases based on our data in January but when we reviewed the data on April to June, Central Visayas ranked third so we decided to expand the program," said Bayugo.

DOH data dated June 4 showed a total of 49,904 suspected dengue cases reported nationwide. Of the figure, 6,887 (13.8 percent) were reported in CALABARZON; 5,141 (10.8 percent) in Central Luzon; and 5,018 (10.7 percent) in Central Visayas.

The figure for Central Visayas is 158 percent higher compared to the same period last year with 2,282 cases and 11 deaths.

Considering the high incidence of dengue cases recorded in Central Visayas, the health agency has decided to extend the immunization program to the region by last quarter of this year.

Grade 4 pupils aged nine years old and above in all public schools in the region will be provided with the free dengue vaccines on October, said Bayugo.

"Health workers will go to all public elementary schools (to administer dengue immunization) to all Grade 4 pupils who are aged nine years old and above… Only for Grade 4 pupils because we have limited vaccines, as much as we want to give it to all," said Bayugo.

If availed in private institutions, the cost of the dengue vaccines will range from P5,000 to P10,000.

The national government has allocated P3 billion from the 2015 Annual Budget for the implementation of the program from 2015 to 2016, said Bayugo.

DOH is closely coordinating with the Department of Education to get the list of enrollees in the respective divisions in Region 7.

The program is a welcome development for DepEd-7 director Dr. Julieta Jeruta, who stressed the importance of ensuring students' health against this mosquito-borne disease, especially now that the rainy season has begun. (FREEMAN)

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