In a telephone interview with Punto, Health Undersecretary Dr. Gerardo Bayugo also said four of the confirmed cases have died. Two of the fatalities were from Zambales, one from Laguna and another from Pangasinan.
He said that of the 133 confirmed JE cases so far this year, 53 were in Central Luzon where Pampanga topped the list at 29 cases.
Baguyo said while cases of dengue are more prevalent in the country, JE is more dangerous. “The mortality rate is 20 to 30 percent, while there is a higher rate of permanent disability of those who survive,” he stressed. JE affects primarily the central nervous system.
“We are no longer talking about whether to vaccinate, but whether the vaccinations should be massive just like what we’re doing in the regions for dengue vaccines,” he said.
Baguyo said one factor being considered in the proposed vaccination program is the cost of vaccine which is available locally for P3,500 to P5,000 per dosage. “This is very costly considering that two dosages are needed for one vaccination,” he noted.
He said the DOH Is looking into more suppliers for cheaper cost, adding that the government wants vaccinations to start by next year.
Baguyo noted that last year, the DOH confirmed 193 JE cases with 12 deaths. “We might have fewer cases this year, as we are already past the first semester,” he said.
He also said while Aedes Egypti mosquitoes which transmit dengue breed in stagnant clear water, Culex mosquitoes which transmit JE survive and multiply even in dirty water such as in piggeries or in rice fields. “This is one more reason why we should take the JE threat really seriously,” he added.