Manila, Philippines—The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), in partnership with the Siyasik PH Team, conducted SalinSiyensiya2018, a media engagement activity that aimed to discuss the science behind clinical trials. Reporters from major media organizations, including PTV4, ABS-CBN, GMA 7-DZBB, Philippine Star, Radyo Agila, and the Philippine News Agency attended the event, along with representatives from pharmaceutical and research organizations and the academe. The event was held this morning at the Sulo Riviera Hotel, Diliman, Quezon City.
Speakers included RITM Director Dr. Socorro Lupisan; Dr. Clarissa David from the UP College of Mass Communication; Jenny Arellano of Novotech; Dr. Lulu Bravo of the UP College of Medicine; Dr. Edison Alberto of the RITM; Jun Ryan Orbina of the World Health Organization- Expanded Programme on Immunization; Dr. Mariel Dejesa of the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau; and Dr. Rowena Capistrano of RITM. Mr. Ramon Tuazon of the Asian Institute of Journalim and Communication served as panel moderator.
Lupisan appealed to members of the mainstream media for help in educating the public and clarifying misconceptions against clinical researches. “Investigators or clinical trialists ensure the safety of the participants first and foremost, and ensure that the protocols are implemented according to international and national ethical guidelines,” she said.
In her presentation, Bravo emphasized that the rigorous processes and protocols of the clinical trial are designed to ensure that drugs, vaccines, and other medical products released for public use are safe and effective. “Vaccines work. Vaccination saves lives,” she emphasized. Meanwhile, Dejasa said that the DOH has a surveillance system in place that monitor the status of vaccine recipients. “Ito yung step natin para mabigyan sila ng pansin at ma-monitor. Hindi namin sila pinababayaan,” she stressed.
In her lecture, David observed that the Dengvaxia issue has evolved from a health story into a political story, with political actors “taking over the narrative.” She noted that present media coverage of the Dengvaxia issue has focused largely on the fight between the actors, and not enough on the issues. “We need to look beyond the blame game and seek advice on behalf of the parents and the children. What do they need now, what should they do?” David asked.
In a statement, the RITM noted that the mainstream media is undeniably one of the most accessible sources of information for the general public. “Communicating science to the public should be a responsibility of both the scientific community and the media,” the statement read.