Getting Free PENTA Vaccine at a Health Center in Cebu

Vaccines such as pentavalent are free at barangay health centers. Yet after hearing stories of poor treatment and inferior service, I was hesitant to give it a shot. Last Wednesday, I finally mustered up the courage to try this free government service.

What is Penta Vaccine?

Pentavalent vaccine or 5-in-1 vaccine is recommended for babies 6 weeks old and above. It protects newborns from five (hence the prefix “penta”) deadly diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzaetype b (DTP-hepB-Hib) (source:gavi.org). The newer version of this vaccine, which also fights all these five diseases plus polio, is known as Hexavalent or 6-in-1 vaccine.

Hexa vaccine is not yet offered at public health centers. Instead, they give Penta vaccine as shots and polio vaccine as drops. This way, it is the same as hexa.

How much does Penta/Hexa Vaccine Cost at Private Hospitals and Clinics?

On average, a single dose of Penta vaccine costs 2,700 – 3,500 pesos at private clinics and hospitals. It’s given in 3 doses. The first one on the 6th week, the second on the 10th week, and the third (last) dose on the 14th week. Unlike Rota Vaccine (which can only be given before 18 months), Penta and Polio vaccines can be given later.

Note that once you have started hexa vaccines at private clinics, you can no longer switch to Penta vaccines in health centers.

Getting Free Penta & Polio Vaccines in Mandaue City

Barangay health centers provide free vaccines for its residents. Some of their staff have been trained by the Department of Health (DOH) to handle immunization. Vaccines save lives as they prevent diseases that plague babies and children who still have immature immune systems. That’s why the government offers s few major vaccines for free. (Well, the government technically gets the money from our taxes so it’s not absolutely free.)

Every child can get pentavalent vaccines for free at the barangay health center near them. It starts with a registration of the mother while she is pregnant – this ensures that the mom gets all the vaccines she needs before she gives birth.

Identifying which health Center to go to was a bit tricky for us. That’s because we live near two barangays. I called Mandaue City’s Health Department to ask where we should go to get the free vaccines. I also got the phone number of the Barangay to schedule an appointment. (Mandaue City has a useful website with phone numbers of barangays.)

I’m not sure if it’s the same for other health centers, but here in Banilad, the schedule of immunization is every Wednesday. It’s a “first come, first served” basis. They are open as early as 8am, yet you can definitely come earlier, if you want to be the first on the queue.

My Experience

We arrived at the health center at 8:30a.m., and by then, there were already 12 baby books on the table. The staff started getting the weight and height of babies at around 9:15AM. It was done at the gym near the barangay hall. The weighing scale looked the same as what you’d find in wet markets, but instead of a metal platter, they used a swing made of a thick fabric. Everyone queued up to log their baby’s weight, height, and birthday as well as the mother’s name and address on a piece of paper.

Immunization didn’t begin until about 10AM. Gladly, there were seats and benches available at the waiting area. The lady assigned at the registration area called out Cyd’s name and interviewed me for a bit.

I was dreading that moment.

I’ve heard bad experiences with health center staff. Some scolded moms for not getting a prenatal checkup at the Center. Others asked for a proof as a registered voter. Some even charged for what was supposed to be ‘free’ vaccines. A pediatrician at a private clinic told me to bring gifts if I wanted to be entertained.

While I’m okay with spending money on gifts, I didn’t want to support bribery. Government officials are elected to serve the Public, my taxes should suffice as payment. I know we can call a government hotline number (8888) to report these practices but I really didn’t want to escalate the situation to this level.

Thankfully, the staff was pleasant to me. She was efficient. She simply asked how many vaccines I got while I was pregnant. I told her three. She didn’t even ask what they were. After writing my details, she proceeded with the next mom.

There was just one remaining worry to deal with: my baby’s reaction to Penta vaccine. And as what you might expect: he cried after he was vaccinated. I wanted to comfort him with breastfeeding but he also got polio drops so I had to wait 30 minutes before I could feed him.

Are there side effects? What to expect hours after getting a Penta vaccine? Come back for more stories or follow me on Facebook at fb.com/ScribblingNeurons.

One Reply to “Getting Free PENTA Vaccine at a Health Center in Cebu”

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