MANILA - French drug maker Sanofi Pasteur has yet to decide whether or not it would reimburse the Philippines for used dengue vaccines amid a health scare triggered by questions on the safety of its drug Dengvaxia.
In a press conference Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Sanofi was "not ready" to respond to government's demand for a reimbursement for the procurement of its anti-dengue vaccine.
"I raised that matter in the meeting and they will have to discuss that. They are not ready to answer the question whether they are ready to shoulder the total cost of P3 billion of Dengvaxia vaccines," Duque said in a press conference.
In 2015, the government procured billions worth of the vaccine from Sanofi for its dengue vaccination program, under which some 800,000 public school students were immunized.
But government sought a refund last week following Sanofi's admission in November that the vaccine may lead to more severe dengue cases if given to those who had never contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
Apart from seeking reimbursement, the Department of Health also asked the French drug firm to create an indemnification fund for those who may suffer severe dengue due to the vaccine, Duque said in an interview on ANC last week.
On Monday, Sanofi agreed to reimburse the government for the unused 1.18 million doses of Dengvaxia.
"Our decision to reimburse for unused doses is not related to any safety or quality issue with Dengvaxia. Rather, Sanofi Pasteur hopes that this decision will allow us to be able to work more openly and constructively with the DOH to address the negative tone towards the dengue vaccine in the Philippines today," the French firm said in a statement.
The payment will be made two days after the drug company collects all the unused vaccine from 4 government "pick up points."
The drug maker was, however, silent on whether or not it would also refund the Philippine government for already used Dengvaxia doses or shoulder hospitalization costs of children who contracted severe dengue after receiving the vaccine.
The Public Attorney's Office earlier said at least 5 children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia died less than 6 months after receiving the drug. All victims suffered from internal bleeding and swollen internal organs.
Should Sanofi decline to shoulder hospitalization costs, the government will have to cover the victims' expenses via health packages from PhilHealth, Duque said.