MANILA - The Department of Health wants to add the vaccine for the deadly Japanese encephalitis disease to the list of publicly mandated and available vaccines next year, the DOH said Sunday.
Health Sec. Paulyn Ubial said they plan to recommend the vaccine for the mosquito-borne disease for inclusion in the country's national immunization program in 2018.
Ubial said it is part of their efforts to increase public awareness against the disease, which has not been as prevalent as other mosquito-related diseases like dengue but has had a higher fatality rate.
"We've been having cases of Japanese encephalitis for so long, but more cases came out because we are doing surveillance," Ubial told reporters at a benefit run in Manila Sunday.
The DOH has recorded 57 cases of Japanese encephalitis throughout the Philippines from January to August 5 this year. Five of these cases led to deaths.
Ubial said the number was 72 percent lower than the number of cases during the similar period in 2016.
More than half of the number, 29, were recorded in Pampanga, where one teenage girl died in August.
Ubial said the agency has yet to confirm reports that Japanese encephalitis was also the cause of the death of two children in Laguna this week.
Since 2014, the DOH has been monitoring the illness in five areas: Regions I, III, VII, XI and the Cordillera Administrative Region.
There is no cure for the disease, whose symptoms include headaches, fever, vomiting, and difficulty moving.
Vaccines for the disease are limited in the country, Ubial said, and are expensive at P3,500 to P5,000 each.