Health secretary to personally visit school children put at risk by dengue vaccine

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DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III (Photo: www.doh.gov.ph)

By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III will start visiting schools with students who face possible severe dengue symptoms after being injected with the controversial Dengvaxia.

In a news forum, Duque said he will go first to a Marikina school, and will also inspect certain schools in the rest of the National Capital Region, Regions 3 and 4-A, and Cebu.

The visit, Duque said, is part of heightened monitoring efforts for the 837,000 school children given the vaccine.

The health chief said some inspections will be unannounced so he could check his regional staff’s compliance with the department’s risk communication strategies, such as the setting up of posters containing vital information on dengue immunization.

“We will start to do our regular visits and unannounced visits of the schools where we make sure that the DoH people on the ground are able to follow what the DoH central office has put them to task,” said Duque.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo also said children will be given letters for their parents.

He said the letter contains updates on the vaccine, a reminder to watch out for dengue symptoms, and information on medical help when symptoms arise, such as “fast lanes” in hospitals.

He also said Duque already asked Dengvaxia’s manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur to come up with a “test kit” that will determine if a patient’s blood has dengue virus.

“The Secretary has demanded that Sanofi have this test available at the soonest possible time so we would know exactly who among the children are at risk,” he said.

Duque has also demanded that Sanofi take back its remaining vaccine stocks and refund the corresponding amount so the government could use it for the potential care for immunized children, if needed.

The health chief also reiterated that the DoH welcomes and cooperates with the investigations into the vaccine currently being carried out by the Senate and the House of Representatives and the cases filed by groups such as the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Gabriela.

But the department will focus its efforts on post-vaccination monitoring for the 837,000 school children who received the vaccine, and said that it will not file cases against Sanofi.

“We don’t want to be filing the cases ourselves because our plates are full, we have to watch out for 837,000 students who have been vaccinated, and to us that is paramount—the health of those children and to ensure that the risk is mitigated, if not eliminated, and that is why we have been actively rolling out several risk communication strategies,” said Domingo.

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