In its annual report for the entire 2016, the DOH-3 said it monitored 20,864 dengue cases in Central Luzon, as compared to 36,726 cases in the previous year.
DOH regional epidemiologist Dr. Jesse Fantone said the decline could be attributed to the inoculation of thousands of Grade 4 kids in public schools in Central Luzon.
The vaccine, also known as Dengvaxia, was developed by Sanofi and piloted in Central Luzon and other provinces in April last year. It is supposed to be given to the same children in three doses.
Fantone said, however, that the eff ectiveness of the vaccine could be ascertained in 2019 when an epidemic, which occurs in a cycle of three years, does not happen.
In a press conference here, DOH regional director Dr. Leonita Gorgolon said she did not know exactly how many children had been inoculated in April last year, but that some 750,000 kids were targeted for the vaccination.
But Fantone admitted that four vaccinated Grade 4 pupils, and not just two as earlier reported, died after being inoculated.
He said two of the children were from his region, while the other two were from other pilot areas in Laguna and Cebu.
DOH officials have admitted that the vaccinations carried out in April last year was done even before the vaccine was “prequalified” by the World Health Organization the following November, with a budget allocation of P3.2 billion.
Fantone said the fatalities in Central Luzon were in Bataan and Pampanga who were given the first of three doses of anti-vaccines in April last year.
He said that while “we expected adverse effects,” the deaths of the two kids in his region was believed to have been “coincidental” with the inoculations. “One of the kids died from pneumonia and the other had a brain infection pre-condition.”
Interviews of parents held by Punto! at the Lakandula Elementary School in Mabalacat City, Pampanga, revealed, however, that parents were never told to report on their children’s health after vaccinations.
The Senate had sought a probe on the “sudden, undue haste” in the purchase of the vaccines. Sen. Richard Gordon noted that the government started administering the vaccine to pupils in April, 2016, less than four months after it was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in the following December.
There has always been a concern that a dengue vaccine would increase the risk of severe disease, not lower it. The vaccine is licensed for use in children 9 and older. Six countries have approved the vaccine: Brazil, El Salvador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Philippines, which earlier this year started using the product.
The World Health Organizations vaccine experts – known as the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization – recommended last year that if countries approve the vaccine, they should only use it in places where there is substantial dengue activity.