Holistic approach, not Dengvaxia, needed to address dengue problem

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The Dengvaxia tragedy inflicted by corporate hijacking of the health care system go unabated and even threatens to expand. The increase in dengue incidence and deaths over the last several months have given Big Pharma and their cohorts another chance to push Dengvaxia vaccine on a much larger scale on the Filipino people. Public pressure to do something seems to trump good old common sense and independent scientific reasoning. It is saddening that presumably well-meaning but Big Pharma influenced doctors seem to be persistent in pushing to lift the ban on the vaccine without thorough study and discussions of the potential disastrous effects of widespread use of the discredited Dengvaxia vaccine. It must be remembered that Sanofi-Pasteur, the drug manufacturer with previous criminal offenses, pushed hard for the approval and marketing of Dengvaxia despite the obvious lack of scientific data, due diligence and common-sensical justification. Dirty politics, vested interests and gross ignorance aggravated the situation and still dominate the scene resulting in almost total disregard of public welfare.

Sanofi knowingly concealed their own finding that Dengvaxia could cause severe dengue in seronegative recipients. Several other experts have already questioned the interpretation of the results of the supporting study by Sanofi and warned that it was too early to use Dengvaxia for mass vaccination since there was no sufficient safety data yet. However, in the face of the dengue upsurge, some doctors are again downplaying the hazards and exaggerating the benefits of vaccination. Unfortunately, even highly competent and well-meaning experts can be misled by the corporate dominated health system.

The potential disatrous adverse effects of widespread Dengvaxia vaccination should be studied very carefully and compare them with the claimed potential benefits. It is a scientific fact that increased incidence of more severe infections and deaths after vaccination have been well documented in the past. The inherent danger of injecting microbial protein fragments, DNA and other foreign materials into the human body, especially in children, is also well documented in the scientific literature. Dengvaxia, and in fact, all vaccines, contain such hazardous foreign fragments and materials. Quite recently, a team of scientists found significant amounts of organic and inorganic contaminants in 44 types of vaccines, including micro- and nano-sized particulate matter composed of inorganic chemicals, metals and combination elements not previously known and which are neither biocompatible nor biodegradable.

Dengvaxia has not been shown that it is free of these contaminants. Investigating the potential adverse effects of Dengvaxia, therefore, should not be limited to deaths associated with contracting the dengue virus but should be more comprehensive in nature. The deaths that followed Dengvaxia vaccination should not be dismissed easily as not directly attributable to Dengvaxia, as the Department of Health claims. Given the present scientific facts related to the vaccine, deaths and illnesses following Dengvaxia vaccination should be presumed to be caused by the vaccination until a thorough investigation proves otherwise.

There are many plausible biological mechanisms for potential adverse effects due to Dengvaxia. Triggering a more severe dengue disease in seronegative children through antibody dependent enhancement or similar mechanism is just one. Synergistic harmful effects, especially to the immune system, due to concomitant exposure to other vaccines is another plausible mechanism of potential adverse effects, particularly in young children. Aggravation of vaccine adverse effects with exposure to other environmental hazards (e.g. pesticides) is also another plausible mechanism that may result in acute or long-term injury, including death. Other factors that affect the immunity of affected individuals, including factors that alter the gut microflora must also be taken into account. There is also very little information about a potentially hazardous chemical listed as ingredient in the vaccine, trometamol, an alkalinizing agent used in various industrial products and cosmetics. Another concern is that the Dengvaxia vaccine is produced through genetic engineering technology with uncertain but potentially serious hazards. All these have been documented in the scientific literature and should not be ignored.

We must take a more rational, holistic and participatory approach in addressing the dengue problem. A knee-jerk, reductionist and vested-interest laden solution with Dengvaxia does not serve the Filipino people. We could start with studying the role of climate change on the upsurge of dengue cases worldwide and institute mitigating measures to manage climate change aggravation of vector-borne diseases like dengue. Resources spent on community-based participatory approaches in vector control might perhaps be more cost effective and much less potentially dangerous than expensive vaccination programs. Comprehensive measures to effectively address poverty and poor diet, the main factor that compromises the immune system and make people susceptible to severe dengue disease, especially the marginalized, must be earnestly pursued. Environmental toxins, pharmaceuticals and other factors that also compromise the immune system and the capacity of the people to withstand dengue infection must also be addressed. Alternative medicine approaches, including expanded research, in the management of dengue cases must also be seriously conducted.

It is high time that this Dengvaxia controversy, and for that matter issues regarding other vaccinations, be subjected to public scrutiny and oversight. The public has good reason to be alarmed. People’s trust in government health programs cannot be earned by hiding or obscuring the facts and insisting that “experts” alone can speak authoritatively on the issue. The people have good reason to resist government health programs that do not live up to their mandate of serving the people.

Only when health is in the hands of liberated and empowered citizens will public health programs be truly beneficial to the people.

Romeo F. Quijano, M.D.

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