Asia-Pacific, Philippines, Opinion

Dengvaxia: The Philippines Dengue Fever Failure

In June 2017, Dengue Fever cases in the Philippines were at 36, 000. Though this is lower than the almost 57,000 cases at the same time in 2016, it is still an alarming figure. A new immunization vaccine, Dengvaxia, promised relief but turned out to may even be more damaging.

We know that Dengue Fever is incurable and the only thing that prevents Dengue Fever from becoming a pandemic, is to keep your environment clean and sanitary in conjunction with early detection efforts and cures. However, the Philippine government thought it had found a vaccine that would protect children from this disease with Dengvaxia – an immunization vaccine aimed at preventing Dengue Fever from affecting children anywhere in the world.

Dengvaxia: Immunization Time Frame

Contrary to what most people think and propagate on social media, Dengvaxia did not appear in the Philippines abruptly.

The consideration of this vaccine started in 2014 upon its manufacturer’s completion of two parallel studies. It is in June 2015, when the Philippine government started negotiating with Dengvaxia manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, in reducing its cost so that the Philippines could avail it. In October of the same year, it was finally included in the Philippine Formulary, a list of drugs all pharmacies need to sell pending Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approval.

In December 2015, Dengvaxia formally launched with a purchase allotment of Php 3.5 Billion. However, it is in March 2016, when the World Health Organization (WHO) released its research results that Dengvaxia could be dangerous to recipients who have been seronegative, or those who haven’t had Dengue Fever before. Hence, they have requested further studies of the vaccine. Regardless, the Philippine government started immunization in public schools and in April that same year, the WHO released other findings, stating that seronegative recipients of Dengvaxia could be exposed to a riskier type of Dengue Fever.

Dengvaxia-Related Deaths?

Since December 2017, there have been 15 noted cases of death involving children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia, two of which have had Dengue Fever before. This has led to the conclusion that the vaccine might have failed. Moreover, medico-legal experts have also noted that these children all had internal bleedings.

Just this January, there have also been reported cases of Dengvaxia recipients being hospitalized due to different types of infections, particularly, of the circulatory system. Nonetheless, there have been no verified findings stating that these deaths are directly related to Dengvaxia. What was also noted, was that the children who died have had pre-existing medical conditions prior to the vaccination, that could have disqualified them. However, social media based terror and hatred for the previous Benigno Aquino administration spread fast, emanating from self-serving and self-proclaimed medical and political analysts posting several conspiracy theories and stories of alleged money-making schemes related to it. The Duterte Administration was quick to counter these statements by saying that the Dengvaxia purchase and immunization was done in “good faith” by the previous administration.

Dengue Fever: Epidemic Introduction?

What is even more disturbing, is that when you talk to physicians who have been exposed to the situation, they observed that everyone who received the Dengvaxia vaccine, those aged nine to 45, all thought that they were going to die. In reality, that is more than uncertain. Dengvaxia is not a death sentence. What is even more alarming is that this controversy has led to the decline of concurrence with immunization efforts all over the country.

When we talk about the national immunization program, we talk about different types of vaccines made available that are mandated by health organizations to be received by people, particularly, infants. These are vaccines for Polio, TB, Measles, and all those potential illnesses we need to combat, especially in far-fetched areas. Inasmuch as the government would want the fear to stop, most parents have started to distrust the government’s ability in analyzing new medical discoveries. As such, parents have begun to doubt the Philippines’s nationwide immunization program in general, resulting in the decline of the numbers availing immunization.

Trust the Philippines’s Immunization Program

This is genuinely terrifying because if fake news or misinformation continues to spread and the immunization efforts become rejected as a result, these contagious viruses and illnesses could take over and start a nationwide epidemic.

Currently, diseases occur 60% less compared to previous years. If people continue misinformed panic, senior health officers fear that we will fail in all our health efforts. Moreover, what people need to understand is that there are ways to take care of the body and that health organizations are also looking into the effects of Dengvaxia further.

There can be prevention but in spite of fear about what we do not understand, let us not risk rejecting already proven ways of protecting ourselves by trusting the Philippines’s immunization program.

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

All Articles