Pinoys as guinea pigs
Just a few days since two children died after receiving vaccines from health workers here in Cebu, the Department of Health’s (DOH) immunization program is getting the flak once again, this time with its dengue vaccination program.
The DOH put on hold the campaign to give free Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine to the public after Sanofi Pasteur, the drug’s manufacturer, recently revealed that, while the vaccine might work to protect those who had previously been infected with dengue, it may also cause severe form of the disease to those who had not yet experienced getting the mosquito-borne virus, which is common in tropical countries like the Philippines.
The whooping P3-billion program has already provided the free vaccine to more than 700,000 children. Now, health authorities will have to do profiling to check who among them face the risk of getting severe dengue, which is believed to likely occur after a protective period of at least 30 months.
Aside from the Philippines, Dengvaxia has also been introduced in Brazil after recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Following the same recommendation, the Philippines embarked on the expensive vaccination program which aimed to benefit about one million people.
Now, experts from WHO and other international health organizations are reviewing the vaccine’s safety in the wake of the manufacturer’s revelation of its possible dangers. It appears, therefore, that the drug was hastily been endorsed to Third World countries without proper review by WHO.
And it is appalling to think that our executives in the DOH, without thorough evaluation of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, have approved the purchase of the drug with a huge budget and hastily implemented it in the public schools.
It seemed that our health authorities have, at the cost of P3 billion, allowed our poor school kids to be treated as guinea pigs in this medical experiment by a multinational drug company.
The controversy over the deaths of two children given vaccines here in Cebu and now the Dengvaxia once again raised doubts among the public on the claims of modern immunization. There had already been previous issues, such as widespread fear that some vaccines might actually cause autism and other side effects among children, that made people suspicious of immunization.
While some vaccines were able to effectively stop the spread of such diseases as polio, tuberculosis and smallpox, it has also been observed that artificial immunization has actually made us prone to some diseases as the body’s natural defense mechanism is at the same time weakened with the introduction of vaccines.
As more and more mothers opt for the more convenient bottle feeding for their babies, these infants are likely to grow up more prone to diseases since they lack the natural disease-fighting nutrients that breast milk provides. These breast-fed babies rely on vaccines to develop artificial immunity.
But, as in everything that is artificially given, these vaccines have side effects, some of which are not fully known to the international medical community given the short number of years since they were introduced.
And so, the public faces a dilemma. While we hope to be immune to common diseases and certain epidemics, it is also almost certain that we will have to live with the side effects.
The case of Dengvaxia dramatizes that extreme irony, that rather than protect people from dengue, it may actually make infect them with an even more severe form of the disease. What is supposed to make you stronger may actually kill you.
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