DOH to make dengue vaccine available to poor Filipino children in NCR, Regions III and IV-A starting March

January 5, 2016 6:32 am 

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, Jan. 4 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Monday its new program that will benefit nine-year-old poor schoolchildren in three regions of the country with high incidence of dengue cases starting March of this year.

“The President (Benigno S. Aquino III) has approved the provision of dengue vaccine among poor students in government schools in the three regions with highest dengue incidence,” DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin said in a press briefing held at the DOH Media Relations Unit in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

The DOH Chief said that a total of 1,077,623 children aged nine years, residing and enrolled in government schools in the National Capital Region (NCR), Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (MIMAROPA) will be the initial beneficiaries.

The NCR comprises the 16 Metro Manila cities and one town.

Region III or Central Luzon is composed of the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales and Aurora.

MIMAROPA, on the other hand, stands for the island provinces of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

The vaccination schedule will be done every March and September.

Secretary Garin happily said that the country is fortunate as the manufacturer of the vaccine — Sanofi Pasteur — has provided a very huge discount for the price of the vaccine that will be procured by the government through the Sin tax revenues.

“Binabaan nila (Sanofi Pasteur)…halos kalahati at nagdagdag pa ng additional 34 percent discount,” the Health Chief explained during an ambush interview with the media.

She said that the discount was part of a fruitful discussion during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in November in Manila between Sanofi’s President and CEO and the country’s leaders because of the latter’s inquiry on how the company can help the Philippines.

“So, sa darating na mga buwan, we are very fortunate that the Sin taxes, through the political will of President Benigno S. Aquino III, we are able to create an amount that can cater to public health,” she added.

To recall, the Philippines is a proud participant of the 20-year dengue vaccine trial.

The vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution in the country last December.

“The fact that the three phases of the clinical trial have been conducted in the Philippines is a reflection of the efficiency and capability of Filipino researchers and scientists. This shows that the world recognizes Philippine experts in the area of research,” the Health Chief further said.

In 2013, the DOH reported 204,906 cases of dengue, which was the highest number recorded since the establishment of the National Dengue Prevention and Control Program in 1993.

The number of cases slightly decreased in 2014 but 2015 data suggest an increasing trend in cases in the coming years.

The three regions (NCR, Central Luzon and MIMAROPA), where the nine-year-old children are targeted as initial beneficiaries, accounted for almost 50 percent of the cases.

Based on the study conducted by Ediloet.Al (2014), the annual medical cost of dengue cases in the Philippines is PhP 16 billion. The weight average cost of treatment per case is PhP 18,405.

It does not include indirect cost for transportation and food, and additional cost for absenteeism, lost of productivity due to illness and premature deaths, increased health care cost, and possible reduction of tourism.

In the recent unpublished cost-effectiveness study done by Prof. Hilton Lam of the University of the Philippines -National Institute of Health, a nationwide annual routine vaccination of nine-year-old children starting in 2016 will lead to an estimated 24.2 percent reduction in dengue cases over a five-year time horizon — translating to 775,053 cases avoided, 502,000 avoided hospitalizations, 22,010 avoided deaths, and almost P21 billion avoided costs to society.

According to Health Undersecretary Dr. Kenneth Y. Hartigan-Go, the dengue vaccine will be a very big help because it is not cost-effective but providing herd immunity at the same time against dengue virus that stays in five generations

“With herd immunity, it means you will be protecting a large population — ibig sabihin ‘yung hindi nabakunahan ay magkakabenepisyo din sa bakuna,” Usec Hartigan-Go added.

With the provision of the vaccine among the poor children, the government is also fulfilling its promise of bringing "Kalusugang Pangkalahatan" (Universal Health Care Program) for every Filipino a reality as part of the goal of an inclusive growth for all wherein no one is left behind and can reap the fruits of good governance promised by President Aquino when he assumed power in 2010. (PNA)

SCS/LSJ

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