Press Release
February 13, 2019


*Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros's response to Acosta's recent statement

In an attempt to deflect public outrage over her role in undermining trust and confidence in the government's vaccination program, Persida Acosta tried to present so-called data that allegedly shows that vaccination in the country was on the decline even before the Dengvaxia issue. Acosta is desperately clutching at straws. Naghasik ng takot at kalituhan, ngayon naman, pilit nagpapalusot.

First, Acosta conveniently failed to mention that vaccination coverage rates for the Department of Health's (DOH) Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) were at an all time low in 2018, significantly down from the steady numbers the DOH had achieved in the past years through both routine immunization and supplementary immunization activities (SIA). DOH data shows that for the 1st dose of the measles vaccine, the coverage rate estimates for 2018 sharply fell to around 56% compared to around 70% in 2017, 75% in 2016, and 79% in 2015.

Second, a research conducted among 1,500 participants by the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) showed that trust in vaccines was at 93% in 2015. However, vaccine confidence dropped to 32% in 2018. The research attributed this to the highly politicized and irresponsible probe on the Dengvaxia issue, which has led to a dramatic drop in public trust in vaccines in the Philippines.

Simply put, vaccination rates were steady, and despite the many challenges and difficulties, the DOH, the local government units and the frontline health workers in health centers, rural health units and the barangays were doing their best to reach all children and give them life-saving vaccinations. But thanks to Acosta and her ilk's vicious campaign of disinfomation and pseudo-science, the public's trust in vaccines in our country has been eroded, making it doubly difficult for our health workers to fulfill their mission. This situation has now put communities at risk for outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.

Acosta's apologists said that no one can make her resign, and it's all up to her. While resignation is a personal decision, it is also a test of good conscience. Amid the outbreak of disease, deaths, obfuscation and lies, does Acosta have the moral conscience to hold herself accountable for her actions?

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Women and Children and Vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I reiterate my support for the DOH and its vaccination programs. I ask the DOH and local government units to strengthen their collaboration in implementing routine immunization programs. I also call on the DOH to explore other strategies to ensure greater vaccination coverage, including the conduct of nationwide supplementary immunization activities like the Oplan Alis Disease National Immunization Days introduced by former Senator and Health Secretary Juan Flavier during his time. Our office is open to working with the DOH and other partners in the health sector to introduce legislation, including possible amendments to RA 10152 or the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011, that would help remove the many barriers preventing access to vaccination and promote vaccination for all.

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