Dengue vaccine
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

People take vaccine injections to make them immune from contracting a specific disease. But recent reports from the Philippines had it that the anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, a product of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, is putting at risk the health of some 70,000 school children injected with it.

Instead of making the children immune from dengue, Dengvaxia could cause the kids, who had not suffered dengue before, to develop dengue in three to six years after vaccination. This revelation was made by Sanofi Pasteur itself.

Understandably, the revelation caused alarm among the parents of the children who took the vaccination.

President Duterte has approved a Department of Health’s (DOH) recommendation to hold Sanofi Pasteur accountable for the mess.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that once the investigation of the Senate and the Department of Justice on the matter is concluded, the President will run after individuals responsible for the irregularity.

“He (Duterte) wants a refund of what we had paid because there was concealment of a material fact — that children who have not developed dengue may acquire the disease three to six years after vaccination. That was not a known fact when government decided to embark on the vaccination program.”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had earlier said DOH will demand a refund of the P3.5 billion paid for Dengvaxia.

At a recent Senate probe, Thomas Triomphe, Asia-Pacific head of Sanofi Pasteur, said that Dengvaxia is still safe and effective despite the firm’s admission last November.

Last month, Sanofi Pasteur revealed that Dengvaxia, which has already been administered to more than 800,000 public school children, may cause severe case of the disease among the kids who have not had the dengue virus before.

The DOH stopped the vaccination after Sanofi released recently its analysis.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said that Sanofi bears the legal and ethical responsibility to shoulder the health needs of the affected children.

Aside from Sanofi, Hontiveros said, concerned health officials should be held accountable, noting there were warnings aired by experts against the vaccine. “Implementing an immunization program that could do more harm than good to our children is the height of negligence,” she added.

Over 700,000 Grade 4 pupils (at least nine years old) in Central Luzon, Calabarzon and the National Capital Region have been given the dengue vaccine. Of the total number, 70,000 are at risk.

From our standpoint, we have two questions: Why did Sanofi Pasteur release the vaccine to the market if there was still on-going analysis of it? Why did the concerned DOH officials not heed the experts’ warnings?

The simple answer is: They did it for the money, plenty of it. For their greed, they should be meted the maximum penalty imposed by law.


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