The sale, distribution and marketing of Dengvaxia, the world's first vaccine against dengue virus, was stopped after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur revealed that the vaccine poses risks to people without a history of dengue. AFP/File Photo

In Central Visayas: Vaccine pullout on
(The Freeman) - December 11, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines — The Department of Health in Central Visayas has started to pull out the controversial Dengvaxia vaccines from different city health offices and rural health units in Cebu province.

DOH-7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas said the directive from Health Secretary Francisco Duque was to gather all unused vials “as soon as possible” and ensure its safe storage.

These vaccines will be transported to the DOH central office in Manila.

“It is now ongoing. The order was to recall the vaccines ASAP,” Bernadas said.

He said the withdrawal of Dengvaxia vaccines also applies to private hospitals that purchased the anti-dengue vaccine.

The sale, distribution and marketing of Dengvaxia, the world's first vaccine against dengue virus, was stopped after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur revealed that the vaccine poses risks to people without a history of dengue.

After the news broke out, the program was suspended early December and regional health authorities were ordered to heighten surveillance of the thousands of children who received the first dose.

Cebu province was the fourth pilot area that followed the three highly endemic regions, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and National Capital Region where the program was initially launched as school-based.

DOH decided to expand the dengue vaccination program to Cebu as community-based after dengue cases in the province skyrocketed in 2016.

For the first shot, DOH-7 counted a total of 159,766 children aged nine to 14 that were vaccinated in Cebu Province and from the tri-cities. They comprise almost half of the 323,779 eligible recipients.

The first of the three doses in Cebu province was administered from June to October. The second round of dengue vaccination was supposed to start this December.

Bernadas said receiving the first dose has no effect to the child, meaning, it does not give him or her full protection against the dengue virus. A child has to complete the three doses to be protected.

Bernadas also emphasized that the dengue vaccine does not produce dengue infection but a mosquito bite does.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that is transmitted through the yellow fever mosquito named Aedes aegypti.

Bernadas said what health personnel have to keep monitoring now is the severity of the symptoms of children that acquire dengue. He said that if a child is suspected with dengue, parents or guardians has to consult the doctor immediately.

Record

Meanwhile, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) wants local government units to submit data on children administered with the vaccine.

“Ipasulti nato sa ilaha nga we have to compel sa mga local chief executives nga orderan gyud ang MHOs nga ipadali ang paglista,” said PHO head, Dr. Rene Catan.

Catan said it is vital that they know if those administered with the vaccine have had history of dengue.

Governor Hilario Davide III and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale support the call.

“Kinahanglan ra tali nag letters to the RHUs. The mayor may help in instructing the MHOs in light of this issue karon nga dengvaxia,” Davide said.

In Daanbantayan town in northern Cebu, the Municipal Health Office has started compiling the data.

“Identified nato ang may previous history na og kinsa ang wala,” said Mayor Vicente Loot.

He said Daanbantayan is among the local government units that complied with DOH’s order to start vaccination by June because the municipal health officers were also ‘hesitant’ to do so for safety and efficacy reasons.

PHO also met with the chief of hospitals across the province to come up with ways to handle the current situation.

“Wala pay klaro ang directives gikan sa ilaha (Department of Health) padung sa atoa (PHO). We’ll just take the initiative nalang. Kung unsay ilang idungag didto, we’ll just strengthen nalang,” Catan said.

He added that government should just rally behind using available resources rather than focusing on who to blame given the possibility that the children’s lives are at stake.

“Dili na ta angay magtudtud ani. More of the concern karon is we have to alleviate the fears of the parents,” he said.

Meanwhile, Board Member Victoria Corominas-Toribio of the Third District asked DOH for a list of children in the district vaccinated by Dengvaxia.

The list would be part of the reported 160,000 children vaccinated in the Province of Cebu.

“This would allow local officials, and rural health practitioners (MHO, RHU, and even barangay health workers) not only to closely monitor the vaccines but more importantly to better respond should any of the vaccines be admitted to a health facility for any reason,” reads Toribio’s letter dated December 7, 2017.

She addressed the letter to DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas, Catan, and to the mayors of Barili, Aloguinsan, Pinamungajan, Balamban, Asturias, Tuburan, and Toledo City.

Toribio asked the mayors in the third district to check with the Local Health Office, barangay officials and barangay health workers and others who may have been involved and aware of the mass vaccination conducted in their area, if any, earlier this year.

She also urged the mayors to ask their local health officers to coordinate with the PHO. (FREEMAN)

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