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Philippines Loses Confidence In Vaccination After Dengue Crisis: Report

The report authors say it is vital that governments and global institutions do more to build public trust in vaccines.

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Philippines, dengue
Protesters rally at the Sanofi Pasteur office in suburban Taguig city to protest the drug company's deal with the government for the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, March 5, 2018, east of Manila, Philippines. The vaccine was administered to more than 830,000 school children and adults before being pulled from the shelves after new study showed it posed risks of severe cases in people without previous infection.. VOA
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  • The ability to fight future pandemics could be at risk following a plunge in public confidence in vaccines in the Philippines, according to a report from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The plummeting trust can be traced to 2015, when the government of the Philippines began a large-scale dengue fever vaccination program after an increase in cases of the mosquito-borne disease.

An election in 2016 saw a change in government, as President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Then, in November 2017, the French company Sanofi, which makes the vaccine, called Dengvaxia, said it posed a risk to people who had not previously been exposed to dengue fever. If they later became infected, they could have a more severe case of dengue, according to the company.

Philippines concern to outrage

Most countries adapted to Sanofi’s announcement by updating guidelines and labeling. In the Philippines, public concern turned to outrage, which was fueled by a highly politicized response from the government, according to lead researcher Professor Heidi Larson.

“This was an opportunity to jump on the previous government for all their wrongdoings ‘Why did you get this vaccine?’ And it became an uproar and created not only quite a crisis around this vaccine, but it bled into other areas of public confidence in vaccines more broadly,” Larson told VOA in a recent interview.

The researchers measured the loss in public trust through their ongoing Global Vaccine Confidence Index. In 2015, 93 percent of Philippine respondents strongly agreed that vaccines were important. This year, that figure has fallen to just 32 percent, while only 1 in 5 people now believes vaccines are safe.

Philippines, dengue
Boxes of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia are placed inside a freezer for storage at the Manila Health Department in Sta Cruz, metro Manila, Philippines.VOA

Risk of pandemic

“This dramatic drop in confidence is a real concern about risks to other diseases such as measles, on the one hand. On the other hand, too, Asia is ripe for a pandemic in influenza viruses to take hold, and in the case of a pandemic or an emergency outbreak, that’s not a time when you can build trust,” said Larson, who also cautioned that misinformation played a big part in undermining confidence in vaccines.

“The role of social media in amplifying those concerns, in amplifying the perception of risk and fears and their public health consequences, is dramatic,” Larson said.

Also Read: Researchers Busy Myths Surrounding Vaccination

Large-scale immunization programs are in the trial stage to tackle some of the world’s deadliest diseases, like malaria. Meanwhile, containing the outbreak of any future pandemic, like influenza, would likely rely on emergency vaccinations.

The report authors say it is vital that governments and global institutions do more to build public trust in vaccines. (VOA)

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Misinformation About The Flu Shots Creating Problems

Infectious disease experts recommend getting vaccinated before the flu season begins.

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Vaccination, vaccine
Ana Martinez, a medical assistant at the Sea Mar Community Health Center, gives a patient a flu shot, Jan. 11, 2018, in Seattle. According to an update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii. VOA

The 2017 flu season was particularly bad in the Northern Hemisphere. Nearly 80,000 people died in the U.S., including 180 children. Already this year, the virus has claimed the life of a child in Florida.

A Florida hospital has surveyed parents throughout the U.S. to find out why some don’t get their children immunized even though it could put them in danger.

Why get the shot?

Kids are very effective spreaders of disease. Just ask Ehren McMichael, mom of three.

“My husband and I just assume if one kids gets it, it’s do the best you can and then hope for the best because more than likely, someone else in the house will come down with it as well,” she said.

Even though kids don’t like getting a shot, McMichael’s kids, including her daughter Hannah, know why they get one.

“It helps protect you from the flu, and so when you go to school, your friends don’t catch it,” Hannah said.

The same is true for her son Brayden.

“It’s better to get a shot than get sick,” he said.

Flu shot myths busted

Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Florida surveyed parents and found a significant number of them are misinformed about the vaccine. The survey found that more than half the parents questioned think children can get the flu from the shot, a third don’t think the vaccine works, and almost that many think the flu vaccine causes autism.

Dr. Jean Moorjani, at Orlando Health, tries to help parents understand why their kids should get vaccinated against the flu.

 

Vaccination, vaccine
A child receives a measles vaccination in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2018. (VOA)

 

“Doctors recommend the flu vaccine because we know, based on science and research and facts, that it is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu,” she said.

“You cannot get autism from the flu vaccine. It is not a conspiracy for doctors to recommend the flu vaccine. The parts of the virus that are used are completely dead, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” she added.

Get your shot early

Scientists try to figure out what strains of flu are likely to circulate in a given year, but even if they guess wrong, Moorjani said, the vaccine still offers some protection.

“When your body receives the flu vaccine, your body starts to think, ‘OK, I’ve got to start making antibodies to help protect against the flu virus.’ So even if it’s not a perfect match, getting the flu vaccine will still give your body some protection,” she said.

Also Read: Top Healthy Habits Which Parents Can Teach Their Children

Infectious disease experts recommend getting vaccinated before the flu season begins. This goes for adults, as well. It helps protect those who are vaccinated as well as babies who are too young to be vaccinated. (VOA)