Ona blames successor, washes hands of Dengvaxia 'health nightmare'

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2018 11:49 AM | Updated as of Jul 16 2019 05:06 PM

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MANILA - Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona on Monday blamed his successor Janette Garin for the public scare over the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

In a Senate hearing Monday, Ona said during his stint in the Health Department, Sanofi Pasteur had been briefing him about the vaccine but never claimed it was ready for general use.

"All these times, until the end of my term, Sanofi never claimed that vaccine was ready for general use," Ona said, reading a statement he made in December 2017.

"The leadership that took over the DOH that I left in December 20, 2014 are solely responsible for all decisions that has resulted in what is becoming to be a major health nightmare," he added.

Ona stressed that he never endorsed Dengvaxia. He added that if he was still DOH chief at that time, he would not have implemented the dengue vaccine program in a massive scale.

A study by the New England Journal in 2015, he added, called Dengvaxia as a "candidate dengue vaccine that walks a tight rope," meaning more studies are needed before it can be publicly used.

"If this editorial is read by any expert in public health, it would make one wait for more follow up studies to further evaluate the safety and efficacy sans cost," Ona explained.

The Philippines was the 1st country in Asia to approve the vaccine for individuals aged 9 and 45 years old in 2015. It was to be administered in 3 phases at 6 month intervals beginning 2016.

As of November 2017, about 733,713 Filipino children were given the controversial vaccine before the government suspended the program.