MANILA - Vaccination coverage dropped in some areas as parents now refuse to enroll their children in government-sponsored immunization programs amid a scare triggered by the Dengvaxia controversy, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday.
Immunization coverage in Central Luzon dropped to 57 percent from 87 percent, while there's an "increasing number of parents who don't want their children to be injected with the measles vaccine" in Davao City, Duque said at a Senate hearing on the halted dengue vaccination program.
"One of the most common reasons for refusal is the Dengvaxia has tainted the other innocent vaccines. Even for the benign deworming activity, where they will just swallow tablets, there [has] been palpable refusal from a lot of parents," Duque said.
In December, the Department of Health had to stop its dengue immunization program and pull out dengue vaccine Dengvaxia from the market after French drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted that the drug can cause "severe dengue" when given to children who had never contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
A study group from the University of the Philippines- Philippine General Hospital that examined the deaths of 14 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia said more research must be conducted to establish that the deaths were due to the dengue vaccine.
"Sa dami ng nabakunahan ng Dengvaxia, mayroong normal diseases na mangyayari with or without Dengvaxia. Out of the 14, mayroon dalawang (namatay) dahil sa leukemia," Dr. Juliet Sio Aguilar, who headed the expert panel that conducted the study, told senators.
"We don't know at the moment kung mayroong relasyon sa Dengvaxia na ibinigay kaya ang sinasabi natin gusto pa namin pag-aralan," Aguilar said.
Duque said some groups are intentionally spreading wrong information to instigate fear of other government vaccination programs.
"Certainly, there's an effort to create this hysteria or fear if not panic among parents... This is fanned unnecessarily by systemics that come from certain quarters," the official said.
The Health chief did not mention which group was responsible for the supposed disinformation.
Duque instead called on government officials to push for an information campaign that is "evidence-based and scientific."