3 more cases over 'Dengvaxia-linked deaths' filed

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2018 04:30 PM

MANILA - A new set of criminal complaints was filed by the Public Attorney’s Office before the Department of Justice on Thursday in relation to the deaths of schoolchildren allegedly due to the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine. 

Three complaints for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, torture, and violations of the Consumer Protection Act (Republic Act 7394), particularly ‘defective product’ and ‘mislabeled product,’ were filed over the deaths of Cristine Mae de Guzman, resident of Bataan; Clariza Alcantara of Baler, Aurora; and Erico Lian Rez of Nueva Ecija. 

The complaints are the 13th-15th cases filed by the PAO, led by its chief, Persida Acosta, over the controversial P3.5-billion school-based government immunization program.

Criminal complaints were filed against former Health Secretary Janette Garin, current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, other health officials, and officials and personnel of vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, and its distributor, Zuellig Pharma. 

The administration of Dengvaxia began during the term of President Benigno Aquino III; the program was halted by the Duterte administration following Sanofi’s admission that the vaccine should only be given to those who have already contracted dengue because the illness may worsen in recipients who have no history of the disease. 

At the time the program was stopped, over 800,000 schoolchildren already received the vaccine.

PAO said its Forensic Team, led by Dr. Erwin Erfe, noted a ‘common pattern’ among the alleged victims:
- The children had no history of dengue infection. 
- The children received 1, 2, or 3 doses of Dengvaxia vaccine. 
- The children became sick after vaccination (fever, rash, epistaxis, headache, stomach ache, body weakness, slurring of speech, etc.). 
- The child died as early as 11 days and up to 8 months after vaccination of the last dose of Dengvaxia.
- Forensic examination of the body showed enlargement of organs and extensive bleeding in various organs. 

SANOFI ASKS FOR MORE TIME TO SUBMIT DEFENSE

Respondent executives of France-based Sanofi Pasteur urged the DOJ anew to grant them additional time to submit their counter-affidavits during Thursday’s continuation of the preliminary investigation hearing into the earlier filed 12 cases. 

Handling prosecutors Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag (chairperson); Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez; and Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago granted the plea and gave them up to September 14 to submit their counter-affidavits and other defenses.

The panel also allowed the Sanofi executives to subscribe to their sworn statements before the Philippine Consular Office in France or elsewhere they may be. 

Outside the hearing room, parents and relatives of the alleged victims gathered, bearing enlarged photographs of the schoolchildren, to yet again cry for justice for their kin. 

A separate criminal complaint for criminal negligence and reckless imprudence, technical malversation, causing undue injuries, and violations of the Procurement Law still in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy is also pending at the DOJ. The complaint was filed by Vanguard of the Philippines, Inc. and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption against former Pres. Aquino; his budget chief, Florencio Abad; Garin; other former and incumbent health officials; and Sanofi and Zuellig executives.

Aquino earlier said the program was above board, and was conceived to address the increasing threat of Dengue in various parts of the country.