The Department of Health (DoH) on Tuesday cited the Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccine would be involved in the national immunization program.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III mentioned the Philippines was the second least country in Southeast Asia that had not added JE vaccine to its immunization program.
Duque added that JE vaccine is “World Health Organization-prequalified and FDA approved. It is safe and effective. It has been used for over 30 years in 12 countries and given to more than 400 million children with an excellent safety record.”
This inclusion of the JE vaccine comes after the Health department used the contentious Dengvaxia dengue vaccine to their vaccination drive in 2016. An estimated 800,000 school-aged children were inoculated with Dengvaxia.
DoH had stopped the mass immunization in 2017 after the vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur cautioned of risk of severe diseases to those who have not had dengue history prior inoculation. WHO said the fiasco, which has been blamed for the death of at least 10 children, added to the low immunization rates of the country.
The JE vaccine aims to decrease the “threat of the public health burden of the JE disease in the Philippines,” as it reiterated that clinically-proven vaccines provide immunity against numerous diseases.
Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a mosquito-borne illness, and it is the leading cause of viral encephalitis, a brain infection in Asia, which include the Philippines.
“JE vaccination is the only effective measure to stop the transmission of JE and bring down the number of cases,” the Health department stated. The JE virus was the cause of encephalitis in 15 percent of all reported cases of acute encephalitis in 2016 and 2017, the DoH added.
The Health department cited to introduce the JE vaccine in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and the Cordillera Administrative Region, the region’s most vulnerable to the Japanese encephalitis, beforehand March ends or the start of rainy season. A period in which the JE virus spreads quick – upon the recommendation of WHO.
The JE virus is spread by Culex mosquitoes that breed in water pools and flooded rice fields, leaving people who live close to rice fields and pig farms at high risk.
There were 340 lab-confirmed JE cases, with Central Luzon having the peak number, and Ilocos and Cagayan Valley came in close second and third respectively. This figure was higher than the 275 recorded last year and 122 in 2016.
Children aged nine months old to five years old will be qualified to receive the vaccine through a vaccination drive, as they are the most vulnerable age group, the Health department said. Patients at this age might however suffer from mental disturbances and progressive decline in consciousness to comatose.
JE disease have flu-like symptoms such as sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and tiredness, and may develop into severe encephalitis.
“Three out of 10 JE cases that progress to severe illness will die. Among those who survive, more than half will show serious residual neurologic, psychosocial, intellectual and/or physical disabilities such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or inability to speak,” the DoH conclude.