DOH forms task force to address Dengvaxia concerns

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2017 02:08 PM

DOH: PhilHealth to cover hospital costs of patients with severe dengue

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) has formed a task force to address concerns over dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which was found to pose risk of more severe symptoms if given those yet to contract the mosquito-borne disease.

“The Department of Health (DOH) has created a task force for the management of concerns related to the school-based immunization initiative using the tetravalent dengue vaccine. This is part of the agency’s commitment to closely monitor and attend to the health of those immunized with the vaccine,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a news conference Friday.

Duque said the task force, composed of top officials of the DOH Central Office, health officials from affected regions, and the department's attached agencies, will conduct a thorough review of the dengue vaccination initiative.

“This shall guide the Department of Health in responding to safety concerns relevant to the use of this vaccine and how to proceed with the dengue program to ensure safeguards and prevent similar incidents in the future,” the health chief said.

The Philippines became the first Asian country to deploy the anti-dengue vaccine in 2015. The government bought P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia from Sanofi Pasteur for a vaccination program that targeted about 1 million public school students.

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

As part of its response, the DOH will hire 30 additional surveillance officers to be deployed to its hospitals in regions where children were given Dengvaxia, Duque said.

The health department is currently updating the master list of immunized children in coordination with DOH field offices and the Department of Education, he added.

Duque said the task force would also have a legal team that would look into the accountability of Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of the controversial vaccine.

He said PhilHealth is also ready to cover expenses of anyone who may be hospitalized for severe dengue. PhilHealth’s dengue case rate can cover up to P16,000 for severe dengue, which includes hospital and physician fees, he said.

“We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring our children for any adverse event following immunization and will strengthen the readiness of our public hospitals in attending to any severe dengue cases that may occur,” he said.

The government stopped the sale of Dengvaxia this week after the company admitted that those who have not had dengue might suffer more severe symptoms if they get vaccinated.

Some 1,000 people fell sick after receiving Dengvaxia, including 30 children who were hospitalized, according to data from the Department of Health.

On Thursday, Duque said the Philippines would ask Sanofi for a refund.

The House of Representatives will reopen its investigation into the Sanofi deal next week, while some lawmakers have asked officials from the previous administration, including former President Benigno Aquino III, to explain why the government purchased the vaccine despite questions on its efficacy.