PH dengue vaccine program a 'failure', says health expert

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 02 2018 10:53 PM

Public health expert Susan Mercado on Friday called the government's dengue immunization program a "failure" after the Department of Health said three children vaccinated with Dengvaxia died due to dengue.

"We have 3 cases right now, whether we say there was vaccine failure or not, there are 3 deaths that occurred among children given Dengvaxia. Six of the children died within 30 days of receiving Dengvaxia. This points again to the rush and the inability of the program to have prepared health workers before giving the injection," Mercado told ANC's Top Story.

"This is a program failure. Clearly, a sick child should not have been given Dengvaxia. And in the clinical trials for Dengvaxia, there were no sick children there, those were all healthy children. We have six deaths from children who were previously ill, who died within 30 days of receiving Dengvaxia."

Mercado, a former DOH undersecretary, commended the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) report on the children's' deaths and said both the government and Sanofi Pasteur could be held liable.

"So when we take a look at the results of the report that will now go to the Department of Justice, this is now I think a solid, evidence-based report that can be used to look for liability whether it is liability of Sanofi or liability of government. And it is very clear that there is liability on both sides," she said.

"It is a tedious process, it’s a very painful process for the parents especially those who have sick children and children who have died but I think with the PGH report, we are closer to understanding what we are dealing with."

Mercado said the health sector must identify all children administered with Dengvaxia who has not had the illness.

"It’s very clear what we have to identify all the children who were seronegative because the risk for developing severe dengue and actually dying for it has now come out. We have 3 cases of death. The other one is we now have to look at all children who had illness and should not have been given Dengvaxia," she said.

"And the third one is we have to make sure that all cases of dengue are properly managed at all levels of the health care system. This means massive training of doctors to make sure that anyone who contracts dengue will not die. Because we know how to save patients who have dengue but somehow these children slipped through the cracks."

As of November, the vaccine has been given to about 830,000 children in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas, per government data.