Dengvaxia: Buck stops at President's office, says health advocate

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2017 04:22 PM | Updated as of Dec 12 2017 04:52 PM

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MANILA - Former President Benigno Aquino III and his health secretary, Janette Garin, may ultimately be liable for the procurement of the dengue vaccine that has caused a scare in the country, a doctor who first questioned the vaccine deal said Tuesday.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a health reform advocate, said he believes "somebody has to be accountable" for the policy decisions on the use of Dengvaxia for the national immunization program. 

"Any problem of this magnitude stops at the highest point or level of leadership at the Department of Health. Of this magnitude—800,000 kids and the spotlight on us—the buck stops at the level of the Office of the President because of the significance of money involved," he told ANC's Headstart.

Leachon said he cannot blame Aquino solely "because he is not a man of science" and could have been influenced by wrong or "deceptive" information, while Garin may have also been fed information by drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur.

He said the best evidence in this controversy are the documents which the Department of Justice has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into.

"Dun mo makikita pati the accountability of the other officials and the magnitude of their involvement," he said.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier this month suspended its vaccination program after the French manufacturer admitted that its Dengvaxia vaccine may cause severe cases of dengue if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease. 

The Philippines was the first country in Asia to approve the vaccine for individuals aged 9 to 45 years old in December 2015.

The government has since procured P3-billion worth of Dengvaxia intended for one million public school children in areas reported to have the highest incidence of dengue in 2015: in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON regions.

Some 830,000 students have been vaccinated with the vaccine, according to recent government estimates.

Leachon said the Philippines was not overreacting after the Sanofi announcement, even as Garin noted that 19 other countries who bought the Dengvaxia vaccine did not suspend their programs.

He added, the dengue vaccine spotlight is on the country because it represents 30 percent of the global market of Sanofi Pasteur.