My experience of vaccination is still fresh in my memory even if it happened during my elementary days in Barangay Pomponan Elementary School, a public school in, Baybay City, Leyte. Even today, the injection traces are still alive in both my right and left arms.
At that time, the outbreaks that were prevented were illnesses like measles, typhoid fever, polio, etc. In our barangay I could still recall that almost daily the bell tower of the church rang to signal of a deceased child being brought to the church for final blessing before the remains was brought to the cemetery.
At that time health personnel often visited our school to administer the vaccination. Every time we saw a person visiting our school wearing something white, bringing a stethoscope and a black colored ice bucket, we prepared ourselves to receive an injection again.
Some of my classmates, for fear of the needles, jumped from the windows and ran away from our classrooms. So to take away our fears, our teacher had to explain to us the good purpose of vaccination and told us to convince our classmates who ran away to go back to the classroom and receive the vaccination.
I could not imagine how happy the parents of public school students being given a free vaccination from the government. I know very well the financial situation of the parents of public school students. It has been engraved in our minds that the purpose of vaccination is to immunize and free us from an illness.
Presently, the irony has happened. At first, I likewise believed how glad the parents of more than 700 thousand public school students, almost 160 thousand of them are from Cebu, were vaccinated with Dengvaxia. It is public knowledge that dengue, a sickness from a dangerous kind of mosquito, claimed many lives already.
It is however inevitable that the feelings of gladness by those parents are being overtaken by anger and worries when Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the Dengvaxia vaccine, announced that the new study has confirmed that said vaccine could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected of dengue. Such vaccine could only benefit those who had prior infection.
What a horrendous fiasco! It can now be said that those who were vaccinated and who had not been infected of the disease before have actually continued to be at risk. The supposed purpose and effect of the vaccination does not and will not happen.
The announcement of Sanofi Pasteur prompted the DOH to suspend the implementation of the vaccination program. Health Secretary Francisco Duque ordered for a mandatory history taking and monitoring of all vaccine recipients by the concerned rural health units, local hospitals and even private health facilities.
Most importantly, parents of those students vaccinated by Dengvaxia should not be complacent when they notice that their children are not feeling well. In fact in a report of Futch Inso of Cebu Daily News and DYHP RMN Cebu yesterday, it said that a ten year-old-boy who was given the Dengvaxia vaccine was rushed to the hospital for dengue.
With this development, the unavoidable questions are; why did Sanofi Pasteur sell its product, Dengvaxia, when it has not yet completed its study? Why did the Aquino administration buy the said product and hastily implemented the same when there were experts who advised them to wait first for the complete study result?
Why did former Health Secretary Janet Garin insist that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the said vaccine prior to its implementation when the latter said otherwise in its latest statement? In other words, WHO contradicted Garin. Was Garin really convinced of the product despite the warnings of many experts? Did she give such vaccine to her very own children who are not studying in public schools?
Considering that the implementation of the said program was in April of 2016, or a month before the presidential election, was it not hastily implemented for purposes of making the Aquino administration and its candidates smell good? With the P3.5 billion money involved in the transaction, was it not used to finance the administration’s candidates the way the fertilizer funds scam did during the GMA administration?
These are just few nagging questions that cry loud for an answer. On the legal aspect, I think the DOJ or the Ombudsman is the appropriate agency that would investigate this case. Congress, which is composed of politicians, if it investigates, might be hesitant to grill Garin who was its former member.
Heads should roll in this botched immunization program!