Unnecessary panic over Dengvaxia affecting immunization programs – Health chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 6) — There is an effort to create unnecessary panic over the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Tuesday.

The Health chief, during the fifth Senate hearing on the Dengvaxia mess, slammed the attempt of "questionable sources" to sow unnecessary fear among the parents of children immunized with the dengue vaccine.

"I appeal to everyone, especially those we occasionally see on TV: Certainly there's an effort to create this hysteria, fear, panic among parents of children," he said.

He added that parents will tend to absorb all information, even from "questionable sources," surrounding the controversy.

"This is a cause for concern... We see a very serious implication of this. I think this is fanned unnecessarily by the hysterics that seem to come from certain quarters. This is not fair," Duque said.

As a result, this has affected the Department of Health (DOH) saw a "substantial" 37 percent decline of children getting vaccinated, including the deworming program, which does not even inject children.

Related: Doctors: Parents refusing vaccines due to Dengvaxia scare  

Senator JV Ejercito fears the loss of confidence in the DOH's immunization programs may cause an outbreak of diseases.

"It is important for the Senate, Congress, DOH, and other agencies of the government to really have a unified stand... It behooves upon us to band together, to only allow information that's evidence based and truly scientific based," he said.

The Senate, House of Representatives, Public Attorney's Office (PAO), National Bureau of Investigation, and University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital are conducting independent investigations into the Dengvaxia controversy.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said PAO is partly to blame for the mass hysteria over the dengue vaccine controversy.

Related: Ex-Health chief: PAO partly to blame for Dengvaxia 'mass hysteria'  

The group Doctors for Public Welfare, who counts Cabral as member, wants PAO to stop their autopsies on the 14 deaths allegedly caused by the dengue vaccine. It said PAO should leave the determination of cause of death to "competent forensic pathologists."

PAO's findings state the deaths showed "strong links" to Dengvaxia, although it added the results are inconclusive. Meanwhile, the findings by the UP-PGH found no direct link between the deaths and the vaccine.

The UP-PGH's Dengue Investigative Task Force on January 2 reported three out of the 14 children died of what is called "dengue shock syndrome" after receiving the vaccine. Experts said two of the three deaths may be caused by vaccine failure.

During the hearing, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairperson Richard Gordon also condemned the attempted assault directed at former Health Secretary Janette Garin during the Monday hearing at the Lower House.

Related: Ex-Health chief Garin: Attempted assault by mothers of Dengvaxia-vaccinated children an 'act'  

The four mothers who lunged at Garin admitted none of their children died, but some have not been feeling well. Garin, who approved the dengue program during her term, believes the attack was an orchestrated show.