MORE than a year after the Dengvaxia controversy was brought to light, more parents in Central Visayas are refusing to have their children vaccinated, resulting in outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as measles, in some parts of the region.
According to the Department of Health (DOH) 7, as of Dec. 21, only 43 percent of children between the ages of six months and four years old were immunized under the National Immunization Program.
The target was to vaccinate around 343,246 children this year.
They cited, among others, the current controversy surrounding the Dengvaxia vaccine, as factors behind the low number of children vaccinated.
Dr. Rene Catan, Cebu Provincial Health Office (PHO) head, said that since the controversy started, a lot of parents in Cebu refused to have their children vaccinated by local health workers. It was in November 2017 when DOH suspended the school-based dengue vaccination program when it was reported that some children died due to complications from the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Catan said the Dengvaxia controversy fueled doubts on the efficacy of vaccines being offered by the National Government.
“Because of this controversy, the DOH, and even local health offices, are being scrutinized by the public on how they have implemented their vaccination programs,” Catan told SunStar Cebu.
Of the 162,000 children that were vaccinated with Dengvaxia in Central Visayas in 2017, 11 had died.
But health officials have yet to provide conclusive data on whether the 11 deaths were truly attributed to Dengvaxia.
Maria Lorraine Gimperoso, PHO Child Care nurse coordinator, said that from January to Dec. 1 this year, the PHO successfully administered anti-measles vaccines to 65,424 children in Cebu. But this was only 20 percent of its annual target of 327,121 children six months old and above.
Catan said that due to the refusal of some parents to vaccinate their children, outbreaks of preventable diseases were prevalent this year.
Based on the data provided by the DOH 7’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu), cases of measles from January to Dec. 15 rose to 419 cases with two deaths, which is 635 percent higher compared to the same period last year.
Only 57 measles cases were monitored by the DOH from January to December 2017. There were no deaths.
Dumaguete City had the most number of cases in Central Visayas with 47 monitored. Earlier this year, Dumaguete City and six towns in Negros Oriental experienced an outbreak of measles cases.
In Central Visayas, Dumaguete City had the most number of measles cases with 47 monitored there. Cebu City ranked second with 38 cases.
In terms of fatalities, two towns in Cebu recorded one death each: Tuburan and Tabogon.
But Ruff Vincent Valdevieso, DOH 7 National Immunization Program nurse coordinator, said that not all of those who refused to have their children vaccinated were because of the Dengvaxia controversy. Some parents refused either because of ignorance or due to religious reasons.
“There were others who allowed their children to be vaccinated if the procedure and the benefits of the vaccines were explained to them,” Valdevieso said in Cebuano.
For Catan, it will be a big challenge for them to convince parents to avail themselves of vaccines for their children next year.