MANILA - French drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur should look after children who had severe dengue after receiving its vaccine against the mosquito-borne disease, a former health official said Friday.
The government stopped the sale of Sanofi's Dengvaxia this week after the company admitted that those who have not had the dengue might suffer more severe symptoms if they get vaccinated.
"Sanofi should be providing for families affected because their children did not previously have dengue," former health undersecretary Susan Mercado told ANC's Early Edition.
Some 1,000 people fell sick after receiving Dengvaxia, including 30 children who were hospitalized, according to data from the Department of Health.
The Philippines deployed the anti-dengue vaccine in 2015, the first country in Asia to do so. The government bought P3.5 billion in Dengvaxia from Sanofi for a vaccination program that targeted about 1 million public school students.
As of November, the vaccine was administered to about 700,000 children, the DOH said.
"Most families were led to believe that this vaccine operates like other vaccines. I can't believe that the manufacturers didn't know and if they did not disclose enough, they should be held liable," Mercado said.
Mercado also questioned Sanofi's pronouncement that only 1 out of 10 Filipino children were at risk of contracting "severe dengue," adding the claim should be backed up with data.
"A DOH committee had already raised concerns that this might cause harm for children who had not previously had dengue. Why did we rush to have a vaccine we did not want? That's not the vaccine we want because that vaccine was not for everyone," she said.
Mercado also criticized the decision to target 1 million children nationwide when Brazil, the country where the first case of dengue was recorded, only gave the vaccine to 500,000 children from one state.
"We have to be very careful with vaccine because we are giving it to children who are healthy," she said.
On Thursday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines would ask Sanofi for a refund.
The House of Representatives will reopen its investigation into the Sanofi deal next week.
According to a draft report from last year's hearings, lawmakers recognized conflicting theories of experts on the dengue vaccine and the alleged weaknesses in the DOH monitoring system of its possible adverse effects.