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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
  • 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)

Next Story

Kenya Starts Mass Vaccination of Girls against Human Papilloma Virus

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight

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Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
FILE - Children watch as another child is vaccinated in the town of Liboi, Kenya, July 27, 2011. Kenyan authorities on Friday launched a mass vaccination program against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. VOA

Kenyan authorities have begun a mass vaccination of girls against the human papilloma virus, HPV, which causes cervical cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the East Africa region has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. Kenya.

Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa.

The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart.

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight against non-communicable diseases.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart. VOA

“Access to the HPV vaccine by our girls will lead to the reduction of number of new cervical cancer cases and secure lives of our daughters and sisters,” he said. “This means that our young women who are critical to the future of our nation will be protected from early deaths.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Health says the vaccinations will cost about $7.7 million this year.

Dr. Collins Tabu, head of the National Vaccine Immunization Program in Kenya, touted the benefits of the program in a talk with reporters.

“The introduction of HPV vaccine within our setup has potential to cut back the burden of cervical cancer by close to 70 percent,” Tabu said. “If we achieve a good enough coverage, of about 80 percent.”

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He said at least seven women die every day through cervical cancer in Kenya.

“The human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease with a prevalence of close to 50 percent within our borders, is the primary cause of more than 99 percent of all of the cervical cancers. There is a direct link, as we know today,” he said.

At least 115 other countries routinely administer the vaccine, including Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Tabu said because of the vaccine, Rwanda has nearly eliminated cervical cancer.

Kenya has moved more slowly, possibly because of debates around the safety of vaccines.  Earlier this decade, the Catholic Church in Kenya called for a boycott of a polio vaccination drive.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa. Pixabay

“It’s a bit embarrassing that Kenya may be the last or second last East African country to introduce the vaccine that is supposed to protect our girls against cervical cancer,” Tabu said.

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During Friday’s launch, Kenyatta dismissed claims the HPV vaccine might be unsafe, telling the crowd, “Let us not fight science.” (VOA)