Becoming a nation

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“The prevailing hysteria about Dengvaxia is sadly anchored on unscientific findings and evidence.”

The Philippines is a country that is still in the process of becoming a nation. Becoming a nation, however, is a real challenge that is hard to overcome considering how we have been separated by bodies of water, by regionalist outlook and hundreds of languages and dialects.

Compounding the situation is the tendency of the Filipino to find fault among each other in almost all aspects of life be it in the economic, political and socio-cultural realms. This is very observable in today’s social media.

There is no issue in this newest platform of public discourse that Filipinos can agree on. Whatever position, idea or proposition put forth in that platform by a Filipino, expect another to be passionately opposing it in the same platform.

Public discourse in social media where opposing views need to be laid out is strongly encouraged if only to enhance such discourse and in the process a saner and more intelligent view on any issue of great importance is formulated. Sadly, this is not so nowadays. What we witness in social and even in mainstream media, at times, are exchanges of positions and views that stink of garbage.

Take, for example, the current discourse on the newly discovered vaccine against the dreaded dengue disease. This was the subject of this column last Thursday that we purposely wrote to dispel some myths creating panic in the heart and mind of families whose members had been injected with this newly discovered anti-dengue vaccine.

The prevailing hysteria about Dengvaxia is sadly anchored on unscientific findings and evidence purportedly proving the vaccine not being fit for human use. The social media and public discourse on the matter instead of promoting knowledge and understanding is, on the contrary, heightening the division of the Filipino people.

Because of the negativism and pessimism peddled by the uninitiated the nation is now quarrelling over this vaccine that up to this writing had never been found ineffective in combatting dengue. Admittedly, though, there are findings that only surfaced during the manufacturer’s surveillance for any adverse effects, serious or otherwise, while the vaccine is still on the clinical trial stage.

The findings simply noted that Dengvaxia is not good to be administered to children 0-9 years old and if administered to children aged 9-16 years old with seronegative dengue exposure it may lead to hospitalization and in some cases may also cause severe dengue for that age group.

Lo and behold! Public officials such as Persida Acosta and her self-styled forensic medicine expert went all out in their smear campaign against the vaccine by publicly insinuating the deaths of 56 children inoculated with Dengvaxia was caused by such vaccination. As a people we have become so divided about the issue. The quest for nationhood ended up derailed once again by Dengvaxia.

As a result, parents refused to have their children vaccinated. The country’s vaccination program is thus undermined because of the many unfavorable myths about Dengvaxia.

Not only this. Because of the divisive discourse about this vaccine, we lose sight of the fact that out of the 830,000 children and adults injected with Dengvaxia, a good number of them, about 800,000, are still dengue-free.

This is the evil that the divisive, unhealthy and unenlightening discourse on Dengvaxia had become. This is the very type of discourse that we should be wary about because it does not bring any good to us as a people, as a nation. Discourses like this, and there are so many of them going on in social media and elsewhere, which only derail our effort in becoming a nation that is strongly united and sturdy in its body politic.

But if we are divided, take relief in the fact that nowadays the US, a nation much older than us, is likewise being torn apart by discourses that divide instead of unite its people. (jelbacon@yahoo.com; jelbaconii@gmail.com)