MANILA – Makati’s city government on Monday launched its Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccination for 60,000 city government employees and public school students.

"According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, JE is the leading cause of viral encephalitis and the leading cause of childhood neurologic infection and disability in Asia," officer in charge of the city health department, Dr. Bernard Sese, said.

Sese said that while many of the JE transmissions have been found in rural agricultural areas, they could also occur in urban areas like Makati.

While there has been no incidence of JE in Makati, the daily influx of people from various areas into the city makes it vulnerable to infection, he said, adding that this is what the vaccination is trying to prevent.

According to the WHO, JE is a mosquito-borne virus that is related to the dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses and is characterized by the rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, and seizures.

The WHO put the fatality rate at 30 percent, noting that 20 percent to 30 percent of survivors suffer permanent intellectual, behavioral or neurological problems, such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or the inability to speak.

To prevent it, the WHO recommends JE immunization in “regions where the disease is a recognized public health priority”.

“Even if the number of JE-confirmed cases is low, vaccination should be considered where there is a suitable environment for JE virus transmission. There is little evidence to support a reduction in JE disease burden from interventions other than the vaccination of humans,” it stated.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay said the disease's high mortality rate among children had pushed them to launch the JE vaccination.

“The best attitude is to be proactive. We will not wait for a confirmed case of JE before the city makes a decision to introduce the vaccine," said Binay.

The JE vaccination for about 10,000 city government employees began Monday and will run until the end of December. It is not advised for those who are undergoing chemotherapy and those taking steroids.

The vaccination for students meanwhile will be held in schools beginning January. It will cover about 50,000 Kindergarten to Grade 6 students, thus it requires the consent of parents or guardians. (PNA)