Vaccine hesitancy blamed on former DoH execs

Vaccine hesitancy blamed on former DoH execs

The low vaccine rate resulting in infectious disease crises in the Philippines, such as deadly pertussis, could be attributed to the omissions of the previous administration of the Department of Health, House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin, a former DoH chief, said Monday.

Garin laid the blame on former DoH secretaries Paulyn Ubial and Francisco Duque III for why the country faces a vaccine hesitancy phenomenon, a significant hindrance to eradicating infectious diseases, including hepatitis B, diphtheria and pertussis, currently spreading into the country.

“[Pertussis] is supposed to be a preventable disease. Why did it happen? Why in the world, only the Philippines had a pertussis outbreak? This is all because of vaccine hesitancy,” Garin told the media.

“My apologies, but I call it actually the Duque and Ubial legacy.”

The vaccine scare, Garin said, was due to DoH’s failure to address the “elephant in the room,” leading to the growing cases of polio, measles, and pertussis, among other diseases.

During their time in the DoH, Garin claimed both Ubial and Duque turned a blind eye and did nothing to stop the “false” claims that “demonized” Dengvaxia, which was once a subject of controversy and public backlash following reports of children dying from dengue after receiving a shot.  

Garin lamented the dilemma of Dengvaxia, the world’s first vaccine approved for dengue prevention, fanned the public’s dread of vaccination, including pertussis, increasing risks in infants and children aged up to six years old.

“When a vaccine is demonized and fake experts will be rampant, people will be confused,” she stressed.

Drastic drop 

From the initial 98 percent, vaccine coverage fell to around 30 to 32 percent, including polio, measles, mumps, and pertussis, according to the Iloilo lawmaker.

The vaccine rate of Hepatitis B also incurred a drastic drop.

Garin warned that children who fail to get vaccinated against Hepatitis B have a high chance of getting hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cancer 25 years from now.

While pertussis outbreak is indeed alarming, Garin said the spread of the disease can be prevented through vaccination and observing proper hygiene.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella that spreads easily from person to person, mainly through droplets produced by coughing or sneezing, which is most dangerous in infants, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Symptoms include a mild fever, runny nose, and cough, which in typical cases gradually develops into a hacking cough followed by whooping, WHO said.

Daily Tribune