'Irresponsible noise-making' behind Dengvaxia scare should be avoided during COVID-19 vaccination — Robredo

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — The "irresponsible noise-making" during the Dengvaxia scare should be avoided when the country starts the distribution of vaccines for coronavirus, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.

In her weekly radio show Biserbisyong Leni, Robredo lamented Filipinos' fear of vaccines due to allegedly bloated stories about the Dengvaxia controversy which sparked a few years back.

Without naming anyone, Robredo slammed the "irresponsible noise-making" that somehow propagated and influenced wrong decisions about getting immunized from diseases.

"Hindi naman masamang mag-ingay, pero iyong pag-iingay, irresponsible. Parang iniimpluwensiyahan mo iyong pag-isip ng tao na iyong pagdesisyon niya maging mali, iyon iyong masama," she added. "Sana sa COVID-19, hindi ganyan."

[Translation: It's not bad to create noise, but the noise-making was irresponsible. It's like you influenced people to make wrong decisions, that's what made it bad. I hope this doesn't happen for COVID-19.]

She also cited the reemergence of polio and vaccine hesitancy last year among Filipinos which contributed to the surge of the childhood disease, 19 years after it was already eradicated in the country.

READ: Polio outbreak declared in PH 

"Ang nakakalungkot dito, buhay iyong nakataya eh," Robredo said.

"Nakita natin noong grabe yung ingay sa Dengvaxia, apektado iyong lahat ng sakit na dapat wala na sana sa atin. Iyong polio, na-eradicate na pero dahil ayaw ng mga taong magpabakuna, bumalik ulit."

[Translation: What's saddening here is the lives that are at stake. We saw the impact of the noise during the Dengvaxia controversy, and it affected the diseases which should have been eradicated here. Polio was already eradicated but since people doubted vaccines, it emerged again.]

In 2017, French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur announced the results of a clinical data analysis which found that Dengvaxia is more risky for people not previously infected by the virus. It added that around 10 percent of over 800,000 students who were immunized with Dengvaxia, but did not have a prior dengue infection, were in danger of contracting a "severe disease." This controversy prompted the Department of Health to stop its nationwide dengue immunization program and demand billions in pesos as a refund for the vaccines.

READ: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy 

Amid the issue, Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta drew flak for allegedly spreading "fake news" that led to the public's decline in vaccine confidence and compliance causing a spike, not just in polio, but in measles cases.

Acosta prosecuted some former and current government officials after some children who received the Dengvaxia from 2016 to 2017 fell ill or died. Her group of forensic personnel concluded that the dengue vaccine caused the death of the children. However, the DOH already disputed this and said no solid proof can link Dengvaxia to the fatalities.

The country resumed its polio immunization program in June amid the pandemic, after an outbreak was announced last September 2019. The Philippine Red Cross has also been holding its mass immunization program for measles and rubella in various regions over the past months to protect children from these life-threatening diseases.

President Rodrigo Duterte has recently signed an order granting the Food and Drug Administration the power to issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

United Kingdom's AstraZeneca vaccine was already forwarded to the FDA for regulatory approval. Meanwhile, the country is projected to receive doses from China's Sinovac and Russia's Gamaleya Institute as early as the first quarter of 2021 amid "advanced" supply negotiations, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. previously said.