PH must take full responsibility on the possible consequences of the risky Dengue Vaccine
The Medical Action Group, a human rights organization of health professionals advocating for the right to health of all, is seriously concerned over the controversy surrounding the suspended P3.5-billion dengue immunization program after the pharmaceutical manufacturer of Dengvaxia revealed the clinical trial data showing that the vaccine could have adverse side effects to those who have no history of infection by the deadly dengue virus.
While we acknowledged the decision of the Philippine government to immediately suspend the program to avoid creating mass hysteria, it can’t simply wash its hands and point fingers to others as another justification of their political witch hunting. Probing into the possible irregularities and determining the accountability of those responsible is certainly a welcome move as it is the right of the people to know considering that more than 700,000 Filipinos, mostly gradeschoolers, have received this risky dengue vaccine. But it has to take full responsibility in addressing its possible consequences.
We are giving the Department of Health (DOH) a benefit of a doubt that it might have strictly followed the recommendations set forth by the World Health Organization in their decision to introduce the mass vaccination in 2016 in areas with high dengue prevalence such as National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon until its recent suspension.
Acting on its mandated duty to effectively prevent the escalation of an epidemic by controlling and eliminating any life-threatening, infectious and communicable diseases, requires utmost precautions. While vaccination has been considered as an effective disease preventive and controlling measure but it is not 100% safe. Serious side effects and even death usually occur as different patient responds differently to any medicine. While nothing is without risks, serious harms from vaccines though very rare can be avoided if the government has taken further steps to ensure the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
We can’t blame the public for being quizzical on why the government made a fast-track approval to implement a mandatory vaccination of untested and unproven dengue vaccine. We find it not only irresponsible but also an infringement of the rights of the patients for a safe and scientifically standard medical treatment.
We, in the health sector, believe that vaccination alone to control the spread of disease is not enough. It should form part of a comprehensive disease control strategy backed by evidence-based best practices for clinical care of patients with constant monitoring and a mechanism for possible mitigation.
It is now the right time more than ever for the Philippine government to adopt the rights based governance in public health as it is the right thing to do, morally or legally. By putting the people and their rights at the center of health care system, it can enable to provide communities the opportunities to be heard and be counted for, while it can better equip the government to achieve a more realistic and sustainable human development outcomes.
What the government should do is to ACT NOW and ACT DECISIVELY for the best interest of the public by providing accurate and transparent information and by delivering adequate and proper medical intervention without discrimination. A public health policy failure can constitute a denial of the right to health including the guarantee for claims of redress.
As we take part in the week-long commemoration of the International Human Rights Day that will culminate in December 10, let us all be reminded – both the government and the public – that the guarantee of healthy lives and well-being is not an act of charity but the responsibility of all.
MEDICAL ACTION GROUP
Ms. Edeliza P. Hernandez
Mobile No. 09498834814
Office No. (02) 273-4609
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