Health experts seek more public awareness on effectiveness of vaccines

MANILA — A pediatrician and an infectious disease specialist on Thursday underscored the need to raise public awareness on the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing illnesses, such as Japanese encephalitis, that can result in permanent disability and loss of productivity.

“I always believe that the best way for a nation to become progressive is through health,” pediatrician and fellow of the Philippine Pediatric Society, Dr. Lulu Bravo, said during a forum on Japanese encephalitis held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.

Bravo noted the need to create more space for survival against vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as polio, diphtheria, pertusis, tetanus, measles, pneumonia, and other killer diseases among children, mainly by educating parents on the effectiveness of vaccines.

Giving an example, infectious disease specialist Dr. Cynthia Aguirre said in some areas in the country, mothers refuse to have their children vaccinated because they have the wrong notions about vaccines.

“We really have to educate them on the benefits of vaccination. We have to show them that this is what is going to happen to them if they don’t have themselves vaccinated,” Aguirre explained.

She also lamented the fact that some mothers do not know that vaccines are available in health centers, hence the need to inform them how to access life-saving vaccines.

Meanwhile, the health experts said Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia.

The disease, which is transmitted by the vector mosquito Culex tritaeniorhynchus, causes brain inflammation. Its symptoms include high fever, headache, fatigue, vomiting, confusion, and in severe cases it can result in seizures, spastic paralysis and coma. It can also mimic stroke, as in a case reported in Davao during the second half of 2016, they noted.

Both specialists said that just like other viral infections, no specific treatment is available for Japanese encephalitis except proper case management.

They warned that the disease is fatal in 20 percent to 30 percent of cases and among those who survive it, 30 percent to 50 percent suffer permanent disabilities.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that 3 billion people are at risk in 24 countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region.

The health experts also cited that according to a 2015 study conducted by Dr. Anna Lena Lopez of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the virus circulates in all regions of the Philippines, including in Metro Manila, and is a public health burden.

Most cases involved children less than 15 years old, while 15 percent of cases involved individuals older than 18 years old, they said.

They recommended that JE vaccination be given as a single primary dose for those nine months old and above.

The JE-chimeric vaccine was licensed by the Philippines Food and Drug Administration in 2013 by its manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.

The vaccine is produced by Vero cell culture technology and was recommended by WHO in a national immunization program where JE is recognized as a public health program.

To avail of the vaccine, it is important that people seek the advice of pediatricians and disease infection specialists. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency