There is a legal and a medical side to the dengue vaccine controversy, both of which will have to be resolved in time.
Like most legal cases in the country, the graft case filed by Gabriela and parents of over 70 children inoculated with the vaccine is likely to take years to decide. The accused are led by former President Benigno S. Aquino III, former Secretary of Health Janette Garin, former Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio Abad, and former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa. Also charged were officials of Sanofi Pasteur, the French company that sold the vaccine.
In his testimony before the House Blue Ribbon Committee this month, former President Aquino said he had acted on the dengue threat and there was no opposition or objection to the mass vaccination plan at the time. Critics claimed he failed to exercise sound judgment and discretion, so that thousands of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia are now at risk.
Of more immediate concern now is the fate of these schoolchildren. Sanofi Pasteur had belatedly announced after studies that its vaccine provided protection to those who had already had dengue before, but could pose serious danger to those who had never been infected.
The DOH had immediately stopped the school vaccination program after Sanofi’s announcement. It formed a task force to monitor and attend to the health needs of those who had been vaccinated. In support of this move, Gabriela also went to the Supreme Court and asked it to compel the officials concerned to provide free medical services and treatment to all vaccinated children who need them.
Every parent will understand the fears of those whose children were among the 800,000 inoculated with Dengvaxia, with Sanofi’s outright statement that those without previous infections are in danger of “severe dengue.” Initial reports said that 997 of the 800,000 vaccinated had gotten sick after inoculation and four had died in Bulacan and Bataan.
It is only right that all available help be given to the vaccinated children. The Department of Health and the Department of Education surely have the lists of all these children. The government must not wait for their parents to seek help in hospitals or clinics. It must seek them out, monitor their condition, and immediately provide medical help if needed.
The graft case involving a P3.5-billion purchase without even specific funding in the national budget and without normal bidding will go through the long process of litigation. But the providing of medical aid does not need any legal decision or order. It must proceed immediately, before we have any new sickness or – God forbid – a new fatality among the 800,000 vaccinated schoolchildren.
Tags: dengue vaccine controversy, graft case, Health Janette Garin, House Blue Ribbon Committee, Management Florencio Abad, medical side, President Benigno S. Aquino III, Provide all possible aid to vaccinated children, Sanofi Pasteur, Secretary Paquito Ochoa, serious danger