400 health workers get training to assist families of Dengvaxia recipients

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) workers in Calabarzon started their 3-day psychosocial training in preparation for their field work in communities where children got vaccinated with Dengvaxia. 

The first of the 8 batches of health workers underwent training from May 9 to 11 in Timog Avenue, Quezon City. 

A total of 400 provincial health team leaders, development management officers, program managers, nurses, medical technologists, local health officers, and barangay health workers are expected to get trained until the end of the month.  

Regional Director Eduardo Janairo of DOH-Calabarzon said the training aims to ensure that the health workers will be mentally fit to facilitate "effective management and communication" among parents and kids who received Sanofi Pasteur's risky dengue vaccine.  

"They must learn to exercise maximum tolerance, control their emotions, and be able to appease the anxieties of distressed parents," Janairo said.

He added, "We must reach out to each and every affected parent and ensure that they will be given the proper information and knowledge, and assure them that the government is ready to provide assistance 24/7."

This is part of the DOH's response to the aftermath of the Dengvaxia controversy, which stemmed from Sanofi Pasteur's announcement  that its vaccine could cause more severe cases of dengue if administered to a person who had not been previously infected by the virus.

Sanofi's warning caused an uproar among parents, as Dengvaxia was used in the now-suspended dengue vaccination program for public schools students in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.

Both houses of Congress conducted probes into the matter, with the Senate blue ribbon panel recommending the filing of criminal charges against former president Benigno Aquino III, former health secretary Janette Garin, former budget secretary Florencio Abad, and other officials from DOH, Sanofi, and its distributor Zuellig. 

Several cases against the said officials have already been filed before the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Elections. 

For now, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are focused on monitoring the health of the vaccinated children, and shouldering their hospitalization costs when necessary. 

He has also instructed health workers to "woo" parents to get their kids vaccinated for other diseases again. 

According to Janairo, the psychosocial training for the DOH workers in Calabarzon will enable them to earn the parents' trust back. 

"It is for the health department to provide the safety and protection of these affected children and ensure that they will receive the benefits and support that they deserve. That is why we also need to enhance the skills of our health providers in order for them to provide effective management and assistance in dealing with the target clients," he said. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.