Press Release
September 21, 2019

Recto to DOH: Use P1.23 B 'advertising, publication, travel' budget to fight fake news vs. vaccines

The Department of Health (DOH) wants to spend P629 million for advertising next year, just one of its many information-related expenses in 2020 that can be tapped to fight the fake news on vaccines, which has kept many children from getting them.

This was pointed out by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto who tagged "at least four items" in the DOH's proposed 2020 budget of P91.7 billion that can be used to whip up turnout in the national immunization drive next year.

The Health department plans to provide children, pregnant women and seniors with P7.54 billion worth of vaccines next year.

Among the beneficiaries are 2.7 million infants who will be given anti-polio shots, a key move in stopping the spread of the polio virus, which has returned to the country after 19 years of zero reported cases.

Echoing the warning by health authorities, Recto said "polio is making a comeback, partly because many of our people have been paralyzed by the fear generated by fake news on vaccines."

"Superstition in digital form and viral chismis are aiding the spread of many viruses," Recto said.

To combat these, he urged the DOH to direct a portion of "its massive advertising, travel, training, printing and publication" budget for 2020 to the anti-polio, anti-measles and anti-dengue drive.

Ensconced in the DOH's proposed P91.7 billion budget for 2020 are P622.3 million for advertising; P79 million for "printing and publication"; P530 million for travelling; and P2.16 billion for "training and scholarship."

Recto said these can be used to drumbeat the immunization program, "or these can be cut and then rechanneled to buy more vaccines to inoculate more people; and for those already sick, to bring more personnel, medicines, and equipment to treatment facilities."

"'Yung pera para sa mga consultations sa mga hotels, kung hindi naman importante ang pag-uusapan, dalhin na lang sa mga frontlines," Recto said.

"My suggestion is for them to practice 'financial triage'. Unahin ang importante, at ipagliban kung ano ang postponable," Recto said.

For 2020, the DOH plans to vaccinate 2.7 million infants against tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diptheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, rubella and influenza.

Two million infants will also get anti-pneumonia shots.

Also in the list are 2.4 million Grade 1 and 1.9 million Grade 7 students who will be vaccinated against tetanus, diptheria, measles, and rubella.

The program also covers pregnant women, with 2.7 million of them set to get Tetanus vaccines.

Also to be readied are 2 million units of Influenza vaccine and 500,000 units of Pneumococcal vaccine for senior citizens.

But for these life-saving vaccinations to reach their beneficiaries, "they should be inoculated against wrong information. Kailangan ng gamot laban sa haka-haka."

Recto blamed "unfounded fears" for plunging the immunization rate for all types of vaccines for children to a low 66% last year, way below the 95% minimum.

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