Surigao City LGU running out of anti-rabies vaccines as cases of animal bites rise

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Oct) – The City Health Office here is running out of anti-rabies vaccines as officials say the city government has no budget to cope with the rising number of cases of animal bites.

Garrote Menor, head of the CHO’s Animal Bites Treatment Center, told MindaNews Wednesday that the city government cannot give all the necessary vaccines to victims of animal bites.

She said her office has recorded at least 1,241 cases of animal bites from January to September this year, 973 of which are dog bites. There were 196 cases of cat bites, while the rest were by rats, monkeys, rabbits, and others.

Last year, the CHO documented 1,510 cases of animal bites, 1,210 of which from dogs.

“We don’t have ample supply of these vaccines to give each patient all the necessary vaccines, especially those categorized as level 3,” Menor said. Category 3 patients, she explained, are those bitten near the brain, like neck, head and face.

“These Category 3 patients must have to undergo at least three doses of anti-rabies vaccines,” she noted.

Menor said the anti-rabies vaccine costs P2,800 per vial.

She said the city government, through the CHO, is subsidizing the cost of the anti-rabies vaccines.

Menor said the patients do not pay for the first dose of the anti-rabies vaccine. “Indigent or not, we give them the vaccine and that is free of charge,” she said.

If the dog dies after the bite, the patient needs the four complete sessions, but Menor said the patient must then buy the vaccine after the first dose.

She said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PHIC) also offers free vaccines, including anti-biotic tablets and other medicines needed to prevent rabies, to its members.

The city government, she said, had budgeted only P100,000 for the anti-rabies vaccines this year.

“With this low amount of budget we had for this year, we only have anti-rabies vaccine. What we don’t have is the rabies immunoglobulin,” she said. The Mayo Clinic’s website says rabies immunoglobulin is “used together with rabies vaccine to prevent infection caused by the rabies virus” and that it “works by giving [the] body the antibodies it needs to protect it against the rabies virus.”

Menor said she pities the indigent patients who cannot afford to have another dose of vaccine.

CHO records show that there have been zero incidence of rabies cases from 2008 to 2013 in Surigao City. But this year, four people have already died due to rabies.

Dr. Emmanuel Plandano, CHO chief, admitted that his office is short of anti-rabies vaccines due to the increasing number of dog bites. “There are many times that cases of dog bites may reach up to 10 a day,” he said.

“I am appealing to pet owners to keep their dogs out of the streets. If their dogs have not undergone anti-rabies vaccination yet, they can bring their pets to the City Veterinary Office,” he said.

Menor said the city government will double its budget for anti-rabies vaccines next year.

CHO statistics show that those aging 7 to 18 are the most vulnerable to dog bites, accounting for 70 percent of the victims.

Last year, 781 cases of the dog bites, or 64.5 percent, came from domesticated dogs.

This year’s figure, from January to June, shows that bites from domesticated dogs lowered to 57.7 percent, or 351 cases, against the 257 bitten by astray dogs.