Duterte open to Dengvaxia return amid spike in dengue cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 8)— As dengue cases continue to rise, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he is open to the possible re-entry of the Dengvaxia vaccine in the Philippine market.

"Yes, I am open to the use of Dengvaxia again. Maraming patayan (there have been many deaths), it is an epidemic," Duterte told reporters in an impromptu interview in Malacañang.

"I'd rather go on the side of science. If nobody would believe me, still I would say that if there's anything there, in the Western medicine and even itong mga herbal ng oriental, if it means saving people's lives, I'll go for it," he added.

Duterte, however, stressed he will also wait for the opinion of local health experts before coming up with a decision.

"I want to hear the words of the experts, doctors, we have enough bright people to tell us. I don't need foreigners telling me. My own Filipino scientists and doctors would tell me what to do," the President added.

Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said Malacañang is open to the vaccine's return amid the rapid spike in dengue cases and deaths in the country.

At least 146,000 cases, including 622 deaths, have been recorded from January to July 20, according to the Department of Health's (DOH) latest data. The number, which is 98 percent higher than the same period last year, prompted health officials to declare a national dengue epidemic.

An official of the Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare, which previously lobbied for the lifting of the Dengvaxia ban, meanwhile said he was happy with Duterte's stand on the vaccine.

"This is a war against dengue. Provide everyone with the weapons for the war," Dr. Charles Yu told CNN Philippines' On The Record.

The provinces of Samar, Leyte, Eastern Samar, and Zamboanga Sibugay, as well as Samal in Davao del Norte have declared state of calamity in their respective areas due to the dengue outbreak.

Dengue is a viral disease with no known vaccine, but it is preventable through early detection. Signs and symptoms include severe headache, pain behind the eyes, severe joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and skin rashes.

The Health Department likewise urged Filipinos to seek early consultation-- and not rely on self-medication-- in wake of the dengue outbreak.

"Dapat (it should be) health-seeking behavior. Health literacy. Seek early consultation. But in this time that we have a crisis on dengue, you have to be really conscious," Dr. Nap Arevalo of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau said.