The city government of Talisay will ask the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) for an accounting of all the children in the city who received the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia after one child who got the vaccine got afflicted by the disease and ended up in intensive care unit (ICU).
City Administrator Rudelyn Navarro said the city government would like to get an assurance from DOH-7 Regional director Dr. Jaime Bernadas about the safety of their constituents, particularly those children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Data from DOH-7 revealed there are over 150,000 children in Cebu who were injected with Dengvaxia.
Navarro said they would also ask the DOH to provide financial assistance to the family of Jujen Ababon, a resident of Barangay Lawaan III of Talisay City, who has so far incurred at least P30,000 in hospital bills.
Ababon, 10, was admitted to the Talisay District Hospital (TDH) last Tuesday due to severe nosebleed that followed a fever episode. Jujen, who received last August 8 the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia provided for free by DOH, was diagnosed with dengue.
The boy was later referred to a private hospital in the city of Naga and was placed in the ICU since TDH ward was full and could no longer accommodate more patients, according to Lawaan III Barangay Captain Delia Ybañez.
Ababon was declared in stable condition yesterday and would likely be taken out of ICU by today, Ybañez said on Thursday.
Navarro said they would want to seek advise from DOH-7 on what precautionary measures that Talisay City could implement to ensure that no one would become stricken with dengue like Ababon.
“We just want to clarify everything. We will seek their help, advice and assistance,” Navarro said.
The city government of Talisay has taken this position even as Dr. Shelbay Blanco of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit in Central Visayas (Resu-7) has assured there was no cause for panic as the boy only suffered from a case of dengue.
But the good news that Jujen would be taken off the ICU by today was not enough to stop the Ababons’ neighbors in Sitio Kaduldulan of Barangay Lawaan III from getting anxious, as their children also happened to receive Dengvaxia shots.
“We were really alarmed, especially those parents whose children were vaccinated with Dengvaxia and has not been infected with the disease. Why did they implement the vaccination program if they are not sure yet with its effect,” Ybañez said.
Due to this incident, Ybañez appealed to her constituents to always clean their surroundings and clear areas that could be possible breeding places of mosquitos.
“We have intensified our information dissemination campaign against the disease. I have ordered our personnel to clean and immediately collect the garbage in the different area of our barangay,” she added.
They also inspected the victim’s residence and school to search and clear the possible hiding places of the mosquito that has infected the child.
Jujen’s mother, Jinny, 30, told Cebu Daily News yesterday that her son’s attending physicians have assured her and her husband, Junrey, 31, that their child’s health was improving.
Jinny affirmed that the health of Jujen, who was placed on ICU since he suffered fluctuating fever for five days which was followed by severe nosebleed on Wednesday, was improving.
“Thank God my son is safe now, and the doctors assured he will be placed in a normal ward (today). But we still need to pay the hospital bill (which hospital accountants told me) will be at most P30,000,” said Jinny, who only earns a living by making cleaning rags.
Junrey, on the other hand, works as a mechanic in a shop at Barangay Tabunok, Talisay City.
He said he obtained P20,000 from his employer to partly defray the cost of his son’s hospitalization.
“Initially, I was too ashamed to borrow that kind of money. When Jujen had a nosebleed and we decided to bring him to the hospital, my wife and I only had P1,000 as spare money. But she helped convince the owner of the shop to lend us money,” Junrey said.
Officers from DOH-7 earlier announced Jujen was admitted due to a normal case of dengue, and not due to Dengvaxia.
However, together with the Provincial Health Office (PHO), they are now investigating the matter since the child happened to be the first in Cebu to have been infected with the dengue virus after taking Dengvaxia.
The DOH in Manila has earlier suspended the distribution of Dengvaxia two days after its manufacturer, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, released a statement that those who availed it without any history of dengue may suffer worse.
Jinny said she decided to have Jujen vaccinated against dengue for fear that her son might die due to the disease, which has already claimed at least 14 lives in Cebu this year according to recent data from the PHO.
“The daughter of one of our neighbors died due to dengue sometime in 2016. She was the first in Sitio Kaduldulan to have succumbed to dengue. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my son, who never contracted dengue before,” she said.
Talisay City happened to top PHO’s list with the most number of dengue cases for the month of November, with 453 patients. Fortunately, there were no deaths.
In addition, Jinny revealed that Dengvaxia was provided to residents in Barangay Lawaan III by health officers from DOH-7 and the Talisay City Health Office for free, another factor that drove her to avail of it.
“Dengvaxia was given for free. So, of course, I made sure Jujen would be one of the beneficiaries because back then, we (perceived it) as a rare opportunity. We know the shots were expensive, and dengue is a very dangerous disease,” she added.
Now, she said she regretted her decision.
“I admit that I have been hasty on having my son to take Dengvaxia. That’s why when the news broke out, I was really worried and anxious on what will happen to him,” Jinny said.
Moreover, Jinny lamented that their family had been complacent after Jujen received the Dengvaxia shot, as they did not even consider he would contract dengue after getting a vaccine against the disease.
Junrey told CDN that his and Jinny’s joint earnings barely reached P50,000 a year, and it would be close to impossible that they could afford the P30,000 hospital bill of their son Jujen, the second of their four children.
Felipa Solana, head of the Talisay City Social Welfare Development Office, said they have deployed a team in Sitio Kaduldulan to personally reach out to the Ababons, and promised to help them financially.
“When we visited their residence, we instructed them to get a barangay certificate as proof of residency, their hospital bill, and a medical abstract from the attending physicians. Once they can comply it, we will forward it to Talisay City Mayor Eduardo Gullas Sr. for approval,” Solana said.
She said they would conduct an economic profile on the Ababon family before deciding how much cash assistance could be provided to them by the city government.
“We will assess it once they (Jinny and Junrey) have submitted all the necessary documents. Nevertheless, we assured them that after doing so, their worries will be lessened because once it gets approved, the money will be directly sent as payment to the hospital,” explained Solana.
The Ababon couple also received P1,000 cash aid from Barangay Lawaan III, and another P1,000 from Talisay City Councilor Richard Francis Aznar, who chairs the city council’s committee on health, on Wednesday.
When CDN visited Sitio Kaduldulan yesterday, at least five children, whose ages range from nine to 12 years old, were found out to have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
The niece of Lileth Bistal, the Ababons’ neighbor, also received the shot last August 8, together with Jujen, at Lawaan III Elementary School.
Bistal, 45, told CDN she was now closely monitoring her niece’s health.
“We were really complacent, just like Jujen’s mother. Now, we’re so worried since the news about Dengvaxia broke out, and that it may have adverse effects towards children who have no history of dengue,” said Bistal.
Agustin Arduz Jr., the secretary of Lawaan III’s barangay council, said they were yet to obtain data from DOH-7 pertaining to the number of children from their village who received Dengvaxia.