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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)

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2.6 mn Children at Risk in Philippines Measles Outbreak

The Philippines outbreak comes after global measles cases increased by 48.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to Unicef analysis

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Measles, WHO
A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

Health experts have warned that about 2.6 children in the Philippines were at risk due to a measles outbreak in the country as more people have died from the disease this year than in all of 2018, the media reported on Friday.

The outbreak has killed 261 people this year alone and most of the victims were children aged under five, a 547 per cent increase that the previous year with 202 deaths, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) found.

“It is completely unacceptable that children are still dying from measles in 2019,” CNN quoted Richard Gordon, chairman and CEO of the Philippines Red Cross, as saying on Friday.

The IFRC, with the Philippines’ Department of Health, is now aiming to immunise all unvaccinated children across seven of the “hardest-hit regions” over the next 12 months.

“We are drawing on the skills and dedication of our two million Red Cross volunteers to go door-to-door and neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood,” Gordon added.

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

Filipinos’ confidence in vaccines fell dramatically after a 2014 scandal involving a new dengue fever vaccine, Dengvaxia.

Those with no history of dengue were at a greater risk of developing a more severe form of the disease after having the vaccination.

Rudy Constantino, Director of the Philippines Department of Health Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, told CNN that vaccine levels for measles, flu and other diseases dropped from 70 per cent in 2017 to 39 per cent in 2018 “because of the Dengvaxia scare”.

Also Read- Post-Pulwama, Kashmir Helpline Gets Over 500 Calls

Gundo Weiler, the World Health Organization representative to the Philippines, said the country was now suffering from a measles outbreak “every three to four years”, pointing to large-scale outbreaks in 2011 and 2014.

The Philippines outbreak comes after global measles cases increased by 48.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to Unicef analysis. (IANS)