DOH warns of shortage of human rabies vaccines

LINGAYEN—With already 2,700 cases rabies with two deaths already recorded in first quarter across the province this year, the Provincial Health Officer advised Pangasinenses to be wary of animal bites because of shortage of human rabies vaccines worldwide.

Dr. Anna Ma. Teresa de Guzman said Pangasinan’s data last year registered almost 73,000 animal bites with six fatalities.

So far, the two fatalities this year were both male, aged 60, from Barangay Telbang in Bayambang and Barangay Samat in Bugallon.

De Guzman said the delay in the delivery of the vaccines owing to the shortage was relayed to her office by the Department of Health (DOH), which said the shortage is global.

“We’re worried because the shortage is global and none can be bought in drug stores even if patients want to buy,” De Guzman said.

The DOH Memorandum that reported a shortage directed health units to use and maximize all available stocks of Human Rabies Vaccine to ensure the uninterrupted treatment of rabies cases.

De Guzman said there should be early vaccination of animals, especially dogs whose vaccines are available, to prevent rabies in case they bite humans.

She said since human rabies vaccines are not available and vaccines for dogs are available, she placed the responsibility to cope with the situation on the dog owners.

“The mindset of a dog owner is (in case his pet bites a person), there is human vaccine for anti-rabies but that is wrong. Your dog must be the one protected,” she said.

She said the delay of delivery of rabies vaccines for humans happens is expected in the second quarter but stocks are already depleted.

The Provincial Health Office of Pangasinan is now buying stocks of its human rabies vaccines but it is encountering difficulty in looking for supply.

She said the absence of human vaccines is frightening since rabies’ fatality is 100 percent.

“If signs and symptoms appeared after an animal bite, the bitten person has only 24 hours to get vaccinated or the person dies,” she said.

She reiterated that it is important that dogs are vaccinated and not rely on “tandok”, and if there are stray dogs, barangay officials must impound them.

She added that Animal Bite Centers in Pangasinan are now accessible in some Rural Health Units.

Rabies injection is not limited to bites from dogs but also from cats, monkeys and bats which are carriers of rabies, de Guzman said. (Eva Visperas)

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