Cebu City faces vaccine crisis

Cebu City faces vaccine crisis
SunStar file

THE Cebu City Health Department (CCHD) is grappling with a shortage of rabies and tetanus vaccines while also facing a significant budget cut, according to CCHD head Dr. Daisy Villa.

In an interview on Friday, June 21, 2024, Villa revealed that the 2024 budget allocation for vaccines and medicines has been reduced to P60 million from the previous year’s P100 million.

“Our budget for medicines, including vaccines, was P100 million last year and in previous years. Now it’s only P60 million, which is a substantial reduction,” Villa explained.

The budget cut comes at a time when the City is seeing an increase in rabies cases.

As of the second quarter of 2024, Cebu City has recorded 14 cases of rabies, just three short of the total 17 cases in 2023.

Alice Utlang, head of Cebu City’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries, expressed concern about this trend in a separate interview last June 5.

The vaccine shortage has affected barangay health centers across the city.

City Councilor Nestor Archival reported receiving information that most, if not all, of these centers have run out of vaccines. This claim was corroborated by barangay captains from Malubog and San Nicolas Proper, who stated that while they currently have no vaccines available, supplies have been inconsistent.

Villa highlighted that the CCHD is facing challenges in accommodating rabies patients due to a high number of unvaccinated animal bites.

“Fifty-free percent of dog and cat bites come from unvaccinated animals, which is significantly increasing the number of cases we need to treat,” she said.

For tetanus vaccines, the CCHD is prioritizing pregnant women due to limited supplies.

Villa explained: “We’re focusing our tetanus vaccination efforts on pregnant women, as per Department of Health guidelines. We’ve also purchased some vaccines for wound treatment, but the supply is limited compared to the number of cases.”

The vaccine shortage and budget constraints have raised concerns among city officials. Councilor Archival abstained from voting on cash assistance for Mt. Kanlaon victims, arguing that the City should prioritize “essentials such as rabies and tetanus vaccines for our health centers to address the immediate needs of our community.”

Villa emphasized the importance of responsible pet ownership in combating rabies. She urged pet owners to have their animals vaccinated and to take responsibility if their pets bite someone, to reduce the burden on government resources.

As the CCHD struggles to manage the increasing cases with limited resources, officials are calling for a reevaluation of budget priorities to address the critical health needs of Cebu City residents. / CDF

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