P1-b refund won’t get Sanofi off the hook, says Health chief
EVEN if Sanofi Pasteur refunds the Philippines P1.161 billion for it store of unused Dengvaxia, the French company would not be off the hook for putting at risk the health of more than 800,000 children, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Sunday.
“We are still studying if they are still concealing some material information or knowledge which they did not reveal to those who decided to launch this immunization program… under the previous administration,” Duque said in an interview on radio dzBB.
On Dec. 22, 2015 the Philippines granted marketing approval to Dengvaxia, making it the first vaccine to be licensed for the prevention of dengue in Asia, just three weeks after then President Benigno Aquino III and his Health secretary Janette Garin met with Sanofi officials in Paris.
In January 2016, Garin announced that the Health Department would buy P3 billion worth of the dengue vaccine and by April 2016, a full-blown inoculation program was launched.
Some 830,000 public school students had already been vaccinated when Sanofi announced that the use of the vaccine on people who had not previously been infected by the virus could result in more severe cases of dengue.
The Health Department suspended the vaccination program shortly afterward.
Sanofi has not yet retrieved all of the unused Dengvaxia stock but has said it is amenable to reimburse the Philippines for the unused vaccines.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, which is investigating the dengue vaccine controversy, said Sanofi should not only meet with the Health Department but also with various health experts.
“People are already very anxious and enraged by the latest developments in this anomalous issue, what with forensic examination on the exhumed body of several children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine showing emerging patterns that led to their deaths. It may further fuel public suspicion if the meetings will not be made transparent,” Gordon said.
The Blue Ribbon committee will conduct its fourth hearing today, Jan. 22, to tackle the issues on the undue haste in procuring the vaccines and the accountability of the Office of the President, the DOH, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Budget and Management, and other agencies that were involved.
“While charges in courts may already have been filed by certain groups, the duty of Congress [is] to propose recommendations in aid of legislation, particularly on the undue haste of procuring the vaccines... It is Congress’ duty to make people aware of these issues,” Gordon said.
Sanofi has asked for a meeting with the DOH to discuss the reimbursement and ways to give the public a “more balanced and evidence-based” perspective on the dengue vaccine and the national vaccination program in general. Duque said his is willing to sit down with Sanofi.
Duque said his department would release reports on the deaths of 14 children who were inoculated with Dengvaxia Monday.
The government’s vaccination program was put on hold last month following Sanofi’s advisory that Dengvaxia should not be given to patients who have not had dengue in the past as it may cause severe diseases in the long run.
Sanofi has been imposed a P100,000 fine while the Food and Drug Administration has suspended Dengvaxia’s certificate of registration.