The Palace on Wednesday said the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine might be available in the market again amid the surge of dengue cases and said politics must be set aside when the health of the public is in peril.
“Nothing is final yet but we vow that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, where Dengvaxia was allegedly misused and mishandled in aid of political election with haste,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
His statement came after former President Benigno Aquino III said those who caused Dengvaxia scare should be held liable for causing undue harm to the public, amid the widespread cases of dengue.
“The thing that could have protected the health of our citizens cannot deliver anymore because of politics and a lot of bad motivation,” Aquino said.
Last week, the Department of Health declared a National Dengue Alert as some regions exceeded the epidemic threshold. These include Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.
Some regions have also exceeded the alert threshold: Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Cordillera Administrative Region.
The Dengvaxia scare emerged after several children reportedly died from various complications allegedly attributed to the dengue vaccine.
The Department of Health suspended the nationwide dengue vaccination program in 2017 after the French vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur said Dengvaxia poses “higher risks” to people without prior dengue infection.
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin urged the government to make the vaccines available to the public as a response to dengue outbreaks all over the country.
But if the vaccine will be used, it should be done with “utmost caution” considering the opinion of the World Health Organization and other medical experts that it should be given only to those who had prior dengue exposure Panelo said.
“We will also consider the protocol set by the WHO that for countries considering said vaccination as part of their dengue control program, a ‘pre-vaccination screening strategy’ is recommended,” Panelo said.
“If Dengvaxia is proven effective to those who already had dengue in the past, then its application to these individuals will surely cause the decline of the overall number of cases of dengue which plague the residents of this country,” he added.
Garin, now a congresswoman for Iloilo, faces numerous charges from families who claim their children died after receiving Dengvaxia.
But Garin said the drug is on the essential medicines list and 22 countries, including the United States, continue to use it.
Meanwhile, the Public Attorney’s Office has yet to submit to court concrete proof that several children died supposedly after receiving Dengvaxia shots, she said.
Speaking on the ANC news channel, she said one side of the debate should not impose its views on the other.
“People are dying right and left. We are sacrificing lives of our people. We have to go to the middle ground, respect the belief of each doctor and each patient and we now go back to the real specialists,” she added.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta slammed Garin, saying she does not have credibility since she is facing 44 counts before the Department of Justice and several civil suits before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
“She is respondent. She is not credible,” she said.
“She does not have the credibility to suggest [anything] since she is the accused and respondent in the Dengvaxia cases involving deaths of several children,” she added.
“She is just out on bail.”
The proposal of the Iloilo lawmaker is just a part of her legal strategy, she said, with online trolls pushing her campaign.
“That is just her defense [mechanism]. Just in case she succeeds to have Dengvaxia (vaccine) returned, she could use it as her basis to dismiss the charges,” she said.
She also said she believed Panelo was just misquoted when he said that President Rodrigo Duterte might reconsider the Dengvaxia ban.
“I know Secretary Panelo was misquoted. He said the Palace is open to anything that would be good to the people, and that the government has yet to study [the proposal]. He did not say… [Dengvaxia] will be returned. He was just misquoted about Dengvaxia,” she said.
Relatives of at least 44 children through PAO filed criminal charges against Garin, Health Secretary Francisco Duque II, Philippine Children’s Medical Center director Julius Lecciones, executives of Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and Zuellig Pharma Corp., and several others for the deaths of their children after receiving Dengvaxia vaccine shots.
In November 2017, Sanofi Pasteur issued an official statement, saying the vaccination of Dengvaxia posed higher risks to people without prior dengue infection.
Panelo on Friday said he “was just making a suggestion.”
The DOH declared a red alert on dengue early last month after 115,986 dengue cases, with 491 deaths, were recorded nationwide from Jan. 1 to July 6 this year. With PNA