MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday it is studying if Filipinos already immunized against smallpox would need further protection against monkeypox.
DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said this is part of the government’s precautions against the spread of the disease.
“Pinag-aaralan pa kung ‘yong mga dati katulad naming matatanda na naka-receive ng smallpox dati, kung kami ay immune sa monkeypox. It has to go through thorough study and analysis para masabi natin iyon,” Vergeire said during a COVID-19 booster vaccination event in Manila.
Smallpox was eradicated in the Philippines and around the world in the latter part of the 20th century following an intensive vaccination drive.
Only one smallpox vaccination is needed for lifetime immunity.
The disease is seen as related to monkeypox, which has so far infected 16,000 people in 75 countries this year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the United States, the smallpox vaccine has been authorized for use against monkeypox by its Food and Drug Administration.
Vergeire earlier told ANC that the Philippines could receive monkeypox vaccines by January 2023 at the earliest.
She said the first batch to reach the country would primarily be used as pre-exposure prophylaxis for healthcare workers and for ring vaccination of close contacts of confirmed cases.
MONKEYPOX VACCINE PREPARATIONS
Vergeire said demand for the vaccines against monkeypox is high globally.
“These manufacturers are receiving lots of requests coming from different countries. So tinatarya-tarya din ‘yan kung sino ang mabibigyan. Pero these are initial discussions. Noong nakipag-usap tayo, tayo ay nakikiusap—baka pwede mabigyan lang tayo kahit kaunti muna na mapo-procure para mabakunahan natin ‘yong mga dapat mabakunahan,” she said.
“These are all in the works. Nothing is final yet. We are just informing the public that we are doing our best to access these vaccines for monkeypox.”
The Philippines’ first recorded monkeypox patient, identified in late July, has since recovered and been discharged, the health department said.
Vergeire inspected the Medical Center Manila’s facilities to see its preparedness not only to handle a surge in COVID-19 severe cases, but other diseases such as dengue and monkeypox.
Dr. Evalyn Roxas, the head of infectious diseases at the Medical Center in Manila, reminded the public to be vigilant against the disease, despite it only being documented in one person so far.
“Ang aming payo naman ay mag-continue lang mga hand hygiene and contact precaution. Kasi ang main mode of precaution ng monkeypox ay through contact from the fluids, lesions,” she said.
“So if you just wash your hands and avoid direct contact to these fluids, ‘yon naman po ay maiiwasan ang pagkakaroon nito.”
The WHO has already declared the spread of monkeypox, long endemic in Western and Central Africa, a global health emergency.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: