IN light of the Department of Health’s declaration of a dengue epidemic across the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to reviving the government’s Dengvaxia vaccination program.
“Yes, I am open to the use of Dengvaxia again. Maraming patay ’yan (There are so many deaths). It’s an epidemic,” he told reporters after leading the oath-taking ceremony of newly promoted star rank generals at Malacañang on Thursday, August 8.
The vaccine was banned in December 2017 after its manufacturer, the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, said patients who had no prior exposure to the dengue virus could suffer severe symptoms.
By the time it was discontinued, more than 800,000 public school children had already been treated under the P3.5-billion immunization program, which began during the Aquino administration. Later, Sanofi reimbursed P1.16 billion to the government for the unused vaccines.
Duterte said he would wait for what medical experts conclude on the matter.
“I don’t need foreigners telling me. My own Filipino scientists and doctors will tell me what to do. I will be guided by their announcement,” he added.
The president also said he was willing to tap both Western and alternative medicine if they could help in saving people’s lives from dengue.
“I’d rather go on the side of science. If nobody would believe me, still I would say if there’s anything there in the western medicine and even the herbals of the orientals, if it would be saving people’s lives, I’ll go for it,” he said.
The president acknowledged that the incidence of dengue cases has reached epidemic levels but declined to give a definite answer as to whether he will allow the use of Dengvaxia again.
However, he revealed that his daughter, Veronica, had been inoculated with the vaccine.
Based on the DOH’s report, 146,062 dengue cases were recorded nationwide from Jan. 1 to July 20. It added that the figure was 98 percent higher than what was recorded during the same period in 2018.