Surge in animal bites prompts call for local funding of anti-rabies vaccines

TE. PNA File Photo
TE. PNA File Photo

ILOILO City – The Department of Health (DOH) is urging local government units (LGUs) in Western Visayas to allocate funds for purchasing anti-rabies vaccines, following a significant increase in animal bite incidents across the region.

For the first quarter of 2024 alone, the region recorded 53,919 animal bite cases. This surge has rapidly depleted the anti-rabies vaccine stocks initially allocated by the DOH to 109 designated Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTCs), primarily situated in rural health units and district hospitals.

Dr. Jocelyn Te, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at DOH Region 6, emphasized the uncertainty of additional vaccine supplies arriving from the DOH Central Office this year.

She highlighted the importance of LGUs setting aside funds to ensure a steady availability of vaccines, especially as many victims seek treatment at ABTCs.

Te noted that vaccines delivered earlier this year from the DOH Central Office were quickly distributed among the 109 ABTCs, leaving no reserves.

However, she assured that efforts are being made to communicate the vaccine shortages to the central office, hoping for an augmentation given the six months remaining in the year.

She further stressed the wide-reaching information dissemination efforts by the DOH and LGUs, which have increased public awareness about the immediate need to seek vaccination at ABTCs following dog or cat bites.

The Western Visayas Medical Center in the Mandurriao district of Iloilo City, for example, sees a constant influx of patients daily.

Dr. Adriano Suba-an, regional director of DOH-6, outlined the dual focus of their rabies prevention strategy: increasing anti-rabies vaccination for humans and achieving high dog vaccination coverage across the region.

“Our goal is to vaccinate at least three-quarters of the municipalities,” Dr. Suba-an stated.

In addition to handling the current cases, the region has recorded nine rabies deaths from January 1 to June 15 this year, a slight increase from the seven deaths reported in the same period last year.

The fatalities were reported across various provinces, including Aklan (one), Antique (one), Capiz (two), Guimaras (one), Iloilo Province (two), Negros Occidental (one), and Iloilo City (one), affecting a broad age range from young children to the elderly./PN


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