MANILA - Former Health Secretary Janette Garin filed Wednesday charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against her successor, Paulyn Ubial, in connection with alleged deaths of children due to anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
In a complaint filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ), Garin said Ubial should be held liable for violation of Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, saying her decision to shift the dengue immunization program from being school-based to community-based contributed to alleged reported deaths among immunized children.
Aside from expanding the program, Garin claimed that Ubial also relaxed the protocol on securing prior consent by authorizing immunization on an “implied consent” basis.
“Sec. Ubial considered as implied consent the mere act of a parent bringing his or her child in the community center for immunization, even without a written consent from the parents,” said Garin.
Garin added that Ubial’s shift to community-based immunization ran counter to the globally-espoused recommendation for school-based immunization, weakening the screening and monitoring mechanisms that were set in place.
Ubial’s decision to shift to community-based immunization had no basis as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends school-based immunization for recipients who are of school age, considering the advantages of better monitoring, better compliance, and better screening, the complaint said.
“Community-based immunization is prone to abuse by local politicians who use it as a political tool to facilitate access to free vaccines for their constituents who are unqualified,” said Garin.
Despite this, Ubial allowed the community-based dengue immunization Program to continue for more than a year, issued Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF) exemptions, expanded the program to Region 7 and to cover members of the Philippine National Police, and issued orders to implement it in three more regions, Garin said.
The complaint also said Ubial continued the vaccination program and expanded it, giving the second and third doses first to the more than 400,000 students who first received the vaccine during the Aquino administration.
An additional 400,000 individuals were immunized during Ubial's term.
Ubial allegedly did not comply with baseline and serial serotyping because of the absence of a commercially available testing kit.
Garin said that in light of prevailing facts, there is probable cause to charge Ubial for violation of Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code.
Garin served as health chief from December 2014 to June 2016, followed by Ubial, who was in the post from July 2016 to October 2017.
To date, the Dengvaxia vaccine has not been proven to have caused alleged deaths among those immunized in the Philippines.
In over 21 other countries where Dengvaxia was used and is still in use, no reports of deaths linked to the vaccine have been reported.
The government halted the dengue vaccination program after Dengvaxia maker Sanofi pasteur warned of possibly causing more severe dengue symptoms if administered on those who had yet to contract the mosquito-borne disease.