Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Wednesday (August 7) urged the health department to take advantage of available resources to strengthen its information drive on the importance of government’s expanded program on immunization (EPI).
The senator said this during the first public hearing of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, and amid the Department of Health’s (DOH) declaration of a national dengue epidemic in the country.
Cayetano lamented that the recent outbreak of diseases in the country was caused by the decline in people’s confidence in vaccines.
“I had the opportunity to talk to barangay health workers all over the country. And the biggest problem [they mentioned] is that the mothers were scared. [They] refused to have their children vaccinated with measles and many other vaccines because of the [Dengvaxia scare],” she said.
The principal author and sponsor of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act (RA 10152), Cayetano stressed the need to properly inform Filipino families about the importance of vaccination in saving their children’s lives.
To help restore people’s trust in vaccines, she urged the DOH and other concerned agencies to find more creative and aggressive ways in promoting the government’s immunization program.
“We have a budget through the Sin Tax Reform Law (RA 10351), which we passed years ago for health promotion. I may not have seen it, but I would like to see really exciting and engaging infomercials, cartoons, or even dramas, that would help mothers appreciate the importance of vaccination,” Cayetano said.
“We passed the law precisely because we wanted to ensure that the budget moving forward would include [sufficient funds] for vaccinations… The budget for health promotions is there, let’s really make this engaging,” she added.
‘Improving children’s health increases chances vs dengue, other ailments’
Meanwhile, Cayetano said another critical part of preventing outbreaks like dengue fever in the country is for the government to improve Filipino children’s health and nutrition.
“At the end of the day it is the immune system [that needs to be strong]. The first thing we can do is to make sure our children are healthy enough,” the senator said.
The DOH pointed out during the committee hearing that one in three Filipino children remains stunted. The department said this figure has not improved in the last 15 years.
“To bring up the level of health of every child is the first thing we can do to help them fight the [dengue] battle. That is our long-term solution. We can’t wipe out dengue in a day or in a year. But we can make our children healthier with more resources,” Cayetano stressed.
The senator then called for a strengthened implementation of the government’s programs on children’s health and nutrition, which she said also forms part of the country’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.
The DOH for its part reminded the public to follow the “4S strategy” against dengue, which stands for “search and destroy” mosquito-breeding sites, “self-protection measures” like wearing covered clothes and using mosquito repellent, “seek early consultation”, and “support fogging/spraying” in hotspot areas. #