'Let the people choose': Garin wants Dengvaxia available to private sector

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2019 02:56 PM | Updated as of Aug 02 2019 03:18 PM

A young girl diagnosed with dengue lies on a bed setup at General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital’s pediatric ward hallway in Trece Martires, Cavite on July 26, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Former Health secretary Janette Garin on Friday urged the government to lift the ban on dengue vaccine Dengvaxia as outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease continued to hit parts of the country.

The government in late 2017 stopped the sale of Dengvaxia and its use in the immunization program for schoolchildren after drug maker Sanofi admitted that it may trigger more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had dengue.

Dengue vaccine is among the World Health Organization's essential medicines list, which means that "each government is obliged to make it available to its people at all times," said Garin, now congresswoman of Iloilo's 1st District, which earlier declared a dengue outbreak.

Twenty-one countries, including the US, continue to use the vaccine. The World Bank and some embassies also mandate its personnel to get Dengvaxia before being deployed to the Philippines, she said.

The Public Attorney's Office, she said, has yet to submit to court concrete proof that several children died supposedly after receiving Dengvaxia shots. Garin and several officials of the Aquino administration, which rolled out the Dengvaxia immunization drive, are facing raps over the issue.

"There are naturalists who would say that we don't need vaccines. We don't need medicines. That is bad science... And good science is just behavioral change, we just keep our surroundings clean, healthy lifestyle and you won't get sick," Garin told ANC.

"But we cannot impose the belief of one side to the whole community. Let the people choose. People are dying right and left. We are sacrificing lives of our people. We have to go to the middle ground, respect the belief of each doctor and each patient and we now go back to the real specialists," she added.

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Garin also noted that some of the cases filed against her over the Dengvaxia issue has been dismissed.

"I wouldn't be doing this if it's self-serving," she said of her appeal for the return of the vaccine.

Reports of alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia have spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.

The government recorded 115,986 dengue cases nationwide from Jan. 1 to July 6, about an 85 percent increase from the 57,564 reported during the same period last year, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said.

The government should consider making Dengvaxia available to the public anew if there are enough findings to support its efficacy and safety, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Wednesday.