Dengvaxia controversy led to decline in jabs – study

| Written by Padayon UP

The country’s immunization efforts suffered significantly from public distrust about the effects of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

DoST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña revealed the findings of the study, Dengue Communication: Discovering Prevailing Perceptions Toward Dengue and Dengvaxia, during the agency’s weekly program.

De la Peña said other factors that contributed to the decline in vaccinations are illiteracy and the lack of information about vaccines.

Dengvaxia was considered a breakthrough vaccine for dengue. In 2016, the Philippine government approved it for inoculating schoolchildren.

In 2017, French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, revealed the vaccine posed a risk to individuals vaccinated without prior dengue infection. The warning was issued after thousands of schoolchildren had already been vaccinated.

Deaths blamed on Dengvaxia shots soon made the news, alarming parents whose children have been inoculated with the drug.

Complaints were filed against Sanofi and congressional inquiries were conducted.

The study was led by Dr. Elena Pernia of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication and funded by the DoST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.

It presented an analysis of media, information materials produced by the Department of Health, audience reception and interpersonal information sources on dengue and Dengvaxia, and the influence of these sources on the trust and confidence in interventions for dengue and other immunization programs.

“Results of the study showed that incidence of every vaccination among children is positively correlated with exposure to media content on dengue, more so with the news that has affected their actions in regards to dengue. Moreover, findings also showed that hospitalization for children is not influenced by media platforms as being a source of information,” de la Peña added.

The possible route from campaigns on dengue towards preventing hospitalization has yet to be determined.

The study serves as a support for the actualization of the community’s perception which is associated with different media vehicles and information outlets in terms of having opinions about dengue and Dengvaxia.

De la Peña said the success of every immunization and health program “greatly depends on public understanding and the readiness of the public to support it.”

(This article, written by Kaithreen Cruz, was first published in the The Manila Times Website on August 9, 2021)