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Philippines: Vaccination vs. rabies also affected by Dengvaxia scare, says expert

4 Mar, 2019
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Fears about vaccination resulting from the Dengvaxia controversy may have also led to the decline in the number of people getting vaccinated against rabies, a health expert said.

According to a report by Maki Pulido on 24 Oras Weekend, the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau tallied 301 deaths from rabies in the Philippines in 2018—an 18-year high, and significantly greater than the totals in previous years: 251 deaths in 2014; 246 deaths in 2015; 260 deaths in 2016; and 262 deaths in 2017.

At San Lazaro Hospital in Manila alone, 64 people died of rabies in 2017, up from 50 deaths in 2016. 

Dr. Ferdinand De Guzman, director of the hospital’s Animal Bite Treatment Center, said that the number of people afraid of getting vaccinated has increased.

“This is the snowball effect of the negative impact brought about by the Dengvaxia [scare], so these patients themselves hindi rin nagpabakuna because they are afraid,” he said.

Dr. Ronald Quintana, program manager of the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program, however, also noted that there is currently a global shortage of the human rabies vaccine.

Rabies, which has no known cure, is a usually fatal disease transmitted from animals to humans through a transdermal scratch or bite.

According to the US’ Centers for Disease Control, the rabies vaccine “is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they have been exposed.”

Anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should get a rabies vaccine right away.

Authorities also urge people to get their dogs and cats vaccinated once a year. A free rabies vaccination drive was recently held in Manila to commemorate March as Rabies Awareness Month, but one activist hopes that the practice will become more common.

Quintana, however, noted that the Department of Agriculture also lacks the budget to buy more rabies vaccines. — BM, GMA News

This entry was posted on Monday, March 4th, 2019 at 1:39 pm and is filed under Latest News.

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Lee TH, McGlynn EA, Safran DG. 2019 JAMA 321(6):539–540. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19186

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