Padilla: When politicians play doctor

WITH diseases like polio, diphtheria, measles coming back one sees how politics is ruining everybody's lives, no make that, how politics is killing us. Although there are existing anti-vaxxers, the case against Dengvaxia amplified the anti-vax attitude and dangerously so among those who have little access to knowledge about whether the deaths were directly caused by the vaccine.

As of May 2019, the Philippines had 35,000 people infected with measles and 500 deaths due to the same virus. In 2000, the Philippines was declared polio-free but in September 2019, the DOH declared a poliomyelitis outbreak. In October this year, the number of deaths due to meningococcemia increased. Then there's an increase in diphtheria infection and claimed 40 lives. I have also read about the increase of infections in chicken pox, mumps and pertussis. The most chilling part is that all these diseases are truly preventable by vaccines. There have always been anti-vaxxers who magnify the risks of vaccines rather than its gains. But what truly wrought havoc was the dengue vaccine scandal when immunization coverage dropped to 40 percent. An indicator, according to Dr. Edsel Salvana of UP-PGH, is the increase in measles infection because though it is most transmissible, it is preventable by vaccine.

A year after the Dengvaxia scandal, immunization in the Philippines dropped and only 60 percent of the school children were receiving scheduled vaccines -- BCG, OPV, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella. It was not only Dengvaxia that was discredited but the entire list of vaccines. During the height of the Dengvaxia scare, 3,281 were allegedly hospitalized after receiving Dengvaxia with 600 deaths alluded to as related to the vaccine. However, until now, there seems to be none of these deaths that have been scientifically confirmed as directly because of Dengvaxia. Presidential spokesperson Panelo himself said that "there is no conclusive finding that Dengvaxia caused the death of children who were given the vaccine." In July 2019, the WHO "effectively cleared Dengvaxia for global use" and considers it as an "essential medicine."

As children, we all played the role of doctors or nurses. At some point, some of us thought that the orange-colored merthiolate was the panacea for all ills. Then we grew up and got educated and knew better. Some of our politicians though are still stuck in that game to the detriment of millions.


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