DepEd memo on tetanus toxoid vaccination questioned

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 October)—Pro-Life advocates are questioning an August 19 memorandum from the Department of Education here requiring 14-year-old girls in public schools to submit to tetanus toxoid vaccination.

Retired Judge Melchor Quitain questioned a memorandum signed by Helen D. Paguican, DepEd schools division superintendent, asking secondary school principals, school administrators, health and nutrition section personnel and nurses to submit the list of 14-year-old girls in public schools to be vaccinated with tetanus toxoid by nurses from the Department of Health.

The DepEd memo, also addressed to district and secondary nurses, set the deadline for submission of names of all 14-year-old girls in public schools on August 23.

“Why 14 year olds? Why girls only?” Quitain, a Pro-Life advocate, asked during Monday’s Kapehan. “How about the boys? Why only students? How about the carpenters, the out of school youths? Aren’t they more exposed to tetanus? Why public schools?”

Dr. Baby Palabyab, a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist at the San Pedro Hospital, said 14 is considered the reproductive age among girls.

She cited the history of tetanus vaccination during the time of former health secretary Juan Flavier, when some women injected with tetanus toxoid vaccine suffered miscarriages. She cited reports that the vials used for the vaccine contained a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), a hormone found in women that induces pregnancy.

Palabyab said that 3.4 million Filipina women were injected with the vaccine with HCG in the late 1990s but somebody has yet to track down the results.

She said that aside from just fighting tetanus, the HCG contained in the tetanus vaccine could also stop pregnancy and is even considered “abortifacient.”

She said parents should learn from the past history of tetanus toxoid vaccination.  “If you know of somebody injected with the vaccines in the late 1990s, a classmate, a friend, please ask them if they were able to bear a child,” she told reporters.

Quitain was worried that the parents, or their 14-year-old girls, may have consented to the vaccination without knowing the extent of what it can do to their bodies.

“It is the parents, not the state, who decide for their children,” he said.  “The 14 year old girls when given the paper to sign, will sign whether they understand it or not. They might not even tell their parents when they go home.”

He said this is a complex issue because the parents who only wanted to fight tetanus might consent with the vaccination because they have not been informed about the HCG.

“We know how antibodies work,” Dr. Palabyab, also a Prolife advocate, said. “Once the tetanus vaccine is injected in the body, it will produce antibodies that will fight tetanus.  But if the vaccine also contains HCG, pag ikaw ay nabuntis, hindi na mag survive ang baby (if you get pregnant, the baby will not survive). Maging allergic ka sa sariling anak (you will be allergic to your own child) because of the antibodies. Susugpuin iyon, malalaglag ang bata (It will suppress the pregnancy, resulting in miscarriage).

Quitain cited the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which created the precautionary principles that have become part of the international law. “If chances of something bad can happen, it should be stopped,” he said.

“Do not play God with the lives of 14-year-old public high school girls in Davao City,” he told DepEd and DOH officials.  (Germelina Lacorte/Mindanews)