Garin ignores WHO findings

February 12, 2020
Janette Garin

FORMER Health secretary and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin and Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor apparently ignored the World Health Organization (WHO) findings on pneumonia vaccines in their recent statements regarding the issue.

Both Garin and Defensor issued statements last week that basically did not take into consideration the recent position of the WHO, the global health expert.

Garin said purchasing PCV-10 is a “step backward” because it has less efficacy in preventing pneumonia among children aged five and below in the country. She said that PCV-13 is more effective in preventing pneumonia as it covers more bacteria as compared to PCV-10.

On the other hand, Defensor is leading a congressional inquiry into the DOH move to suspend the bidding for pneumonia vaccines, saying that his House Committee on Public Accounts “will eventually investigate the efficacy of PCV10 vis-a-vis PCV13. There are models all over the world. I hope the DOH can justify their stand.”

However, in 2017, the WHO, after a systematic literature review, stated “There is at present no evidence of a difference in net impact on overall disease burden between the two products (PCV-10 and PCV-13).”  

Then, in February 2019, the WHO reaffirmed this earlier position saying that the two available PCVs are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children. The position paper also states that there is at present insufficient evidence of a difference in the net impact of the two available PCVs on overall disease burden.

The WHO’s stand on the comparability of the two PCVs is backed by other global health experts, such as the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the international Vaccine Access Center (IVAC).

In its own review of the evidence of the impact and effectiveness of PCV, PAHO said that available evidence to date indicates the significant impact of both PCV10 and PCV13 in the outcomes studied, with no evidence of the superiority of one vaccine over the other on pneumonia, Invasive Pneumococcal Diseases (IPD), or meningitis hospitalization reduction in children under five years old.

The IVAC, in their 2017 PCV product assessment which was based on a comprehensive review of published data, also declared that current evidence does not indicate an added benefit with one vaccine over the other.

The DOH’s suspension of the call for bidding for PCVs late last year, which is now being questioned by Defensor, was actually lauded by doctors and vaccine experts who noted that the original call for bidding involved a single vaccine manufacturer.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo revealed in a press briefing late last year  that although the DOH has always called for open tenders, the original call for bidding for PCVs had specifications that were specific to just one vaccine brand.

In a forum which tackled public health transparency amid misinformation and fake news, Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), said, “Saying that one vaccine is weaker than the other is misleading and contributes only to misinformation.”

Bravo also said that the people need to rely on what independent global experts say, “because it is our responsibility, as pediatricians, to be updated with the most relevant, and most updated information.”

She also cautioned people aainst believing claims based on the epidemiology of other countries.

“Hindi po pare-pareho ang merong mikroboyo sa Pilipinas, kesa sa nasa Israel, Amerika, Europa, at China. Hindi porke yun ang ginawa sa ibang bansa, dapat ganon na rin dito,” Bravo said, even as she stressed that serotypes present in other countries are not necessarily those that are prevalent here in the Philippines.