The Department of Health has affirmed its commitment to complete the initial run of the dengue vaccination programme, saying it would be unethical to stop it abruptly.
More specifically, it will make sure all the children who received the initial doses of the dengue vaccine will get to complete the required dosage, given in three phases, six months apart.
The multi-billion immunization programme kicked off in April of 2016 and the third and last phase was supposed to have been completed in May 2017.
“I don’t think it’s ethically right to stop it abruptly. The use of [Dengvaxia] - ethically, you need to complete the three doses,” said newly-promoted Health Assistant Secretary Lyndon Lee Suy, during a press conference at the DOH Central Office on November 7.
Speaking at the Philippine National Immunization Conference 2017, the health official said, "We still have the doses that are available... the children who have received the first dose should receive all three doses." Grade 4 pupils were the beneficiaries in the mass dengue vaccination programme, majority who were aged 9 years old.
In an interview with MIMS late February, then DOH Spokesman Dr Eric Tayag admitted the number of beneficiaries who received the first dose dropped during the second phase of the programme, mostly due to the issues raised about the vaccine, particularly its efficacy and safety.
Dr Lee Suy told newsmen newly appointed Health chief Francisco Duque III will be presented the results of the initial phase of the programme shortly.
He explained the technical working group and the Cabinet official will discuss the result, gaps, issues not addressed during the implementation, reforms and recommendations. The meeting, he added, will mostly revolve around operations.
"If the Secretary says we can continue with the programme, then we will find a way to reintroduce it and find enough budget for the programme to push through," the Assistant Health Secretary said.
Last May, erstwhile Secretary Paulyn Ubial said they will stop the vaccination programme after the third phase and proceed with studying the pilot programme results.
On safety issues, he pointed out that hearings have been terminated and "no issue came out."
"Until such time if the results are positive, the dengue vaccination could even be included in the regular vaccines schedule," the health official said. MIMS
Dengue down by 31.9% in May
Last phase of mass dengue vaccination drive on