By Argyll Cyrus Gaducos
Malacañang assured the public that those responsible for the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine fiasco will be held accountable for what it called a “shameless public health scam.”
The assurance was made after French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of the dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia, revealed that it could worsen the effects of the disease on those who have not been exposed to the dengue virus.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, those behind the program will be held responsible and that the Department of Health (DOH) is now closely monitoring those who have received the vaccine.
“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,” Roque said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Malacañang also assured the parents of the students who have been administered with the vaccine that there has been no case of severe dengue infection recorded by the DOH.
“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,” Roque said.
“We assure the public that as per the 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.
Roque however urged the public not to spread information that may cause undue alarm.
Senator JV Ejercito, chair of the Senate health committee, said he would open an inquiry into the program after health authorities finished their own investigation of the dangers posed by the Dengvaxia.
Dengvaxia is the culmination of over two decades of scientific innovation, collaboration, and research involving 25 clinical studies in 15 countries around the world. The Philippines meanwhile participated in all three phases of the clinical trials for the vaccine.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced the suspension of the program on Friday, adding that experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) were scheduled to discuss Sanofi’s disclosure this month.
In December 2015, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration granted marketing authorization of the vaccine, making Philippines the first country in Asia to approve licensure.
The vaccine, intended for the 9-to-45-year-old age group, was introduced to the Philippines as it was reported to help reduce the incidence of dengue in the country.
The Philippine Foundation for Vaccination earlier noted that on average, over 110,000 Filipinos get sick of dengue every year and that the country spends an estimated P16.7 billion annually due to dengue.