Human Face

Vaccine phobia; Flavier on my mind

/ 05:26 AM February 08, 2018

The bag of excrement has hit the ceiling fan. Vaccine phobia and a lynch mob, just to name a few toxic concerns, have been spawned, virus-like, because of the Senate and House hearings these past weeks on the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy and fueled by other motivated parties. Pardon the mixed metaphors.

While the continuing hearings on the antidengue vaccine manufactured by French big pharma Sanofi Pasteur are shedding light on the why, who, where, when, how and how much (with all the blame-throwing and finger-pointing), these have also generated misplaced panic among the populace. Add to these the seemingly “differently motivated” parties who delight in arousing strong emotions among the already worried parents whose children, either seropositive or seronegative, have been given the vaccine, some completely (in three doses) and others not.


One thing is a success — the rousing of fear for anything spelled v-a-c-c-i-n-e. The panic arose from the reported 14 deaths out of more than 830,000 vaccinated, deaths which have yet to be directly attributed to Dengvaxia. No less than Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has called for sobriety, noting with concern that even deworming is now looked upon with suspicion. Good thing that Duque, also a health secretary during the Arroyo administration, is not the type to grandstand, sow distrust, or throw mud at his immediate predecessors to make pogi points for himself.

“It behooves us to allow only evidence-based information to influence decisions,” Duque said at the hearing two days ago. I caught Sen. JV Ejercito saying we should “bring back the confidence” in vaccination programs. It’s the right thing to say while the ceiling fan is spreading the sh*t.


This is not to say there is no one to blame. There are many, Sanofi Pasteur among them. But the toxic thing about it is how the situation is being exploited to create another situation—that of panic, genuine or feigned, for some ulterior purpose.

Gee, I really miss the late former-health-secretary-turned-senator Juan “Let’s DOH it!” Flavier’s down-home wisdom and folksy humor. What questions would he ask at the Senate inquiry? What would he tell the protagonists, the antagonists, the rabble-rousers? An expert in public health and a communication whiz who had spent much of his life as a doctor in the grassroots sector, he always had a gem of a thought for every situation.

To detoxify and make myself smile, I pulled out one of Flavier’s seven books (all autographed). Here is his “Parable of the Diagnoses” to learn from. (I had to delete the next half of this column to give it space.)

“Three barrio albularyos sat together exchanging experiences, recent cases and sure-fire treatments. Soon their conversation shifted to bragging about their special abilities to diagnose patients just by looking at them. An elderly woman who overheard their claims had an excellent suggestion. ‘There is a man walking slowly towards us with a peculiar gait, holding his waist. You each state your diagnosis and then we can verify directly with him what ails him. Then we will know who made the best diagnosis.’ The albularyos agreed and observed the approaching man.

“The first albularyo decided fast. ‘He has a stomach ache. Look at the way he holds his waist.’ The second then announced his own diagnosis. “No, not stomach ache. He has a back ache because of his hunched appearance.’ The third was ready with his own pronouncement. ‘You are both wrong. He is suffering from rheumatism of the right knee. Notice how he limps.’

“Soon the man was just across from them. The woman asked him: ‘Ano ho ang nararamdaman ninyo? May sakit ba kayo?’

“The man looked surprised and straightened up. ‘Wala ho akong nararamdaman. At lalo namang wala akong sakit. Papunta lang ako sa palikuran para dumumi.’


“All three men could not help laughing at their wrong presumptions. The elderly woman admonished them: ‘Kaya kayo, sa uli uli ay huwag gamut nang gamut. Tanungin muna ang dinaramdam ng pasyente para malaman ang sakit. Ganoon din sa nayon, huwag paunlad nang paunlad ng proyekto. Tanungin muna ang suliranin at pangangailangan ng tao.’”

I say, wise woman.

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TAGS: dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, DoH, Francisco Duque III, Human Face, Juan Flavier, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Sanofi Pasteur
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