Don’t let your baby die

But some mothers do, because they’ve been misinformed by a media looking for headlines, and heartless, thoughtless people looking for aggrandizement.

The hysteria created over Dengvaxia back in December 2017 was based on no factual proofs, only some initial, unsubstantiated reports that some children who were in the inoculation program had died. At that time, there was no sufficient forensic evidence to link those deaths to Dengvaxia, yet that’s what those people did.

I argued strongly at the time to wait for proof, and explained how unlikely it was that the drug caused these deaths. That the drug, in fact, probably saved a number of lives. But fake news overrode my arguments.

Some officials from the Department of Health (DOH) and pharmaceutical firm Sanofi were pilloried in court for deaths based on this hysterical reaction. On Jan. 15, DOH officials told senators during plenary debates on the department’s budget that there were no deaths due to Dengvaxia.

In the Caraga region last year, there were 6,788 cases of dengue versus 2,631 in 2017. That’s a huge, and frightening, 158-percent increase. Of these cases, 22 people died. If the generated hysteria over Dengvaxia had not resulted in its withdrawal, it may have saved some of those 22 and greatly reduced the number of those who suffered.

At the height of the hysteria over Dengvaxia, Persida Acosta, the head of the Public Attorney’s Office (which has no known expertise on health), together with her cohorts led by a certain Dr. Erwin Erfe, claimed that 60 children had died, but did not present any medical proof. She was a very vocal accuser, and has much to answer for. She may want to search her conscience. I’ll be blunt about it: I believe she’s guilty of indirect manslaughter by her irresponsible actions. The media didn’t help either with its desire for explosive headlines. I’m told (I haven’t listened to a radio in decades) that Noli de Castro continues to air a list of those who died because of Dengvaxia. Where does he get this information from? Perhaps he could enlighten the DOH.

Dengvaxia is used in many countries — with no controversy. Over 20 countries have approved its use. When properly applied, it has worked. Dengue mosquitos breed in (filthy, dirty) stagnant water. So keep your environment clean with no stagnant water anywhere. Not in tins, not in tires, not in pots. This would greatly reduce this nasty disease. But until that happens (in a country that just throws its trash without a thought), dengue will plague many, leading to the death of people who should live. So a vaccine that reduces this should have been welcomed, not hysterically banned without basis. A rethink of its use needs to be done by revisiting the issues that led to this situation, under the bright light of credible scientific evidence and not hysterical ignorance.

Because of the hysteria, it’s no longer just dengue. According to the World Health Organization, measles cases in the Philippines went up by 367 percent to 17,298 from January to November 2018, from 3,706 cases for the same period in 2017. This is because mothers were scared due to the Dengvaxia hysteria created by the media and Acosta.

The situation has become so bad that San Lazaro Hospital turned away patients because there were no beds left; 95 percent of those in the ER were suffering from measles.

It’s the same in America; measles has recently made a worrying comeback from being completely eliminated. CNN reported that “measles has risen because parents aren’t vaccinating their children in fear from misinformation and lies from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The DOH now has its work cut out for them convincing mothers that vaccination of their children is essential in keeping them healthy. Doctors and the media could help. A reexamination of Dengvaxia should be undertaken.

I suggest you also read the well-constructed column of Orlando Oxales in the Manila Standard on Jan. 28 for further enlightenment on this important issue.

As we see now, one year later, the hysteria has resulted in mothers too fearful of inoculating their children with any vaccine. Mothers need to realize that vaccination is a desirable, even essential, thing to do to protect their children. Vaccines work, and they work safely. They have been responsible for eliminating polio and smallpox, for instance.

Please, mothers, do it. Protect your babies. Mothers, inoculate your children — keep them healthy.