Duterte open to use of Dengvaxia amid dengue epidemic

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, August 8, said he is open to the use of Dengvaxia again in the country following the health department's recent declaration of a national dengue epidemic.

"Yes, I am open to the use of Dengvaxia again. Maraming patay (Many have died), it's an epidemic," Duterte said on the sidelines of the oath taking of newly promoted star rank officers of the Philippine National Police.

"Now, compare it vis-à-vis to those who died, I want to hear the words of the experts, doctors, and we have enough bright people to tell us. I don't need foreigners to tell me, my own Filipino scientists and doctors would tell me what to do. I will be guided by their announcements," Duterte added.

Days before the Department of Health (DOH) declared a national dengue epidemic, Malacañang had already said it is open to making the controversial dengue vaccine available to Filipinos as long as experts can vouch for its safety and efficacy.

Duterte echoed this on Thursday, saying he would "go on the side of science."

The vaccine has been under public scrutiny since November 2017, after Sanofi Pasteur issued an advisory that Dengvaxia could cause more severe cases of dengue if administered to a person who had not been previously infected by the virus.

Dengvaxia was used in a mass immunization program for public school students. The DOH suspended the program in December 2017 over the controversy.

This year, the country saw a rise in dengue cases, with the health department declaring a national dengue alert in July. A month after, the status was raised to epidemic to "level up the response" against the mosquito-borne disease.

The Philippines has recorded the most number of dengue cases in Southeast Asia so far in 2019, with 146,062 cases and 622 deaths due to the virus. – Rappler.com