The Justice department will investigate the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine acquisition by the previous administration after the supplier of the drug, Sanofi of France, admitted last week that it posed risks to those who had never been infected by the disease.
It was also learned that the Health department was properly warned about the possible effects of the first dengue vaccine to those who have not contracted it yet, but it still approved the program.
With the Health department program, the Philippines became the first Asian country to approve this vaccine for individuals aged 9 to 45 years old in December 2015. The program was approved in just about four months when such projects usually take up to two years to approve.
The DoH also did not conduct tests to determine if those immunized already had a history of dengue, which means it has no record as to who would be affected by the risk posed by the vaccine.
Earlier, the watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption urged the DoJ to investigate the case.
Calling the immunization program “worse than any heinous crime,” the group called on the DoH to set up help desks to receive complaints from concerned parents and also vowed to help them seek compensation for the families whose children may have received potentially risky anti-dengue shots.
The controversy on Dengvaxia broke after an advisory from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur said new clinical analysis has found the vaccine is effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization, but carried a risk of a “severe” case of dengue for people who have not.
“Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefits against dengue fever in those who had prior infection. For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” Sanofi Pasteur said in a statement last week.
This development puts around 10 percent of the over 700,000 school children who received the shots at risk, prompting DoH Secretary Francisco Duque III to order the suspension of the vaccination program pending recommendation on further action from experts from the World Health Organization.
Allaying fears of worried parents, Duque assured the public that the vaccine will in any case provide a 30-month protection period against dengue and assured the public that the DoH is on top of the situation.
The Palace on Sunday warned the public not to spread misinformation about the vaccine anomaly as this would only cause undue alarm.
“On the Dengvaxia anomaly. We understand the concern of our people, especially the parents and the relatives of public elementary children residing in Regions III, IV-A, and NCR, where the dengue vaccination initiative was launched by the previous administration,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
“However, we call on all citizens not to spread information that may cause undue alarm,” said Roque.
“We assure the public that as per the Department of Health [DoH] there is currently no reported case of severe dengue infection to the individuals who received one dose of dengue vaccine last year,” he added.
“Our present health officials are serious in carrying out their mandate to always guard the health and physical well-being of our people, which includes intensifying surveillance and evaluation of our dengue vaccination program,” he said.
“The Department of Health [DoH] is now working in close coordination with the Department of Education [DepEd] to monitor the thousands of students who have been administered with Dengvaxia,” said Roque.
“We will leave no stone unturned in making those responsible for this shameless public health scam which puts hundreds of thousands of young lives at risk accountable,” said Roque. With Bill Casas
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