DOJ orders probe into dengue vaccine mess

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 04 2017 10:56 AM | Updated as of Dec 04 2017 12:09 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice on Monday announced it has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the procurement and usage of the dengue vaccine on thousands of children.

Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II directed the NBI to conduct investigation and case build-up over the "alleged danger to public health" arising from the vaccination drive of the Department of Health and Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of 'Dengvaxia.'

"Tama ba ang pag-order kaagad ng ganito karaming vaccine na worth P3.5 billion? Na naturukan agad ang 733,000 children? Tama ba ito, kahit apat buwan pa lang nama-manufacture ito?," Aguirre told reporters.

(Was it correct to have ordered these many vaccines worth P3.5 billion? To have vaccinated immediately 733,000 children even if it was manufactured only 4 months prior?)

"Nagkaroon ng parang warning yung Sanofi Pasteur, yung manufacturer, sa government officials kaya ang susunod na tanong ay nasunod ba? O naiparating ba ito sa karamihan ng nasa DOH?Kung itong warning ng Sanofi ay talagang naibigay at kung naibigay, ito ba ay talagang naipatupad ng ating DOH officials," he said.

(There was a warning from Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer, to government officials, so the next question is was it followed? Was it disseminated to DOH officials? If it was disseminated, was it then implemented by the DOH officials?)

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption sought an investigation after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur said the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine may pose risks to people who have not previously been exposed to the infection.

During the press briefing with Aguirre, VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio showed photos of former President Benigno Aquino III meeting with Sanofi executives twice: November 2014 in Beijing and December 2015 in Paris.

The vaccines, worth P3.5 billion in total, were bought in April 2016, he noted.

Aguirre said although other countries also procured the Dengvaxia vaccine, it was only the Philippines that implemented it in a "large scale."

"This is really serious. Wag lang sanang mag-panic ang mga na-injection-an because pinayuhan naman ng paraan ng administrasyon ni Presidente Duterte at kaniyang mga secretary of various agencies," said VACC founding chairman, Dante Jimenez.

(This is really serious. Hopefully, those who were vaccinated would not panic because the administration of President Duterte and his secretaries have given advice.)

Jimenez claimed their coordinator in Central Luzon has monitored about 3 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia have died.

He said they are also requesting the DOJ to order the exhumation of these bodies for testing, pending clearance from their families.

Medical Director Ruby Dizon, however, said in a press conference that the Department of Health has not reported any deaths linked to Dengvaxia vaccination, according to the National Adverse Event Following Immunization Committee.

Joselito Sta. Ana, Sanofi Pasteur regional director, also noted that 9 out of 10 Filipinos are exposed to dengue by the time they reach adolescence but only three-fourths of the cases are asymptomatic.

He added: "The vaccination program is not a clinical trial and Pinoys are not guinea pigs."

Aguirre urged parents of the children vaccinated to come forward and give information to the NBI if they have manifested "adverse effects."

"Kailangang malaman ng gobyerno natin ang nangyari lalo na yung may adverse effect lalo na sa mga bata na naturukan nitong vaccine na kung di ka pa pala nagkakasakit ng dengue ay makakasama sa iyo," he said.

(Our government needs to know what happened, especially the adverse effect, especially on the children who were vaccinated, which if you apprently haven't had dengue, would be worse for you.)