NO need to panic over the anti-dengue vaccine as it does not cause the deadly dengue virus, Malacañang said on Monday.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the “severe” dengue classification that pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur had mentioned involved symptoms that are not deadly.
“The good news is people should not panic about the dengue vaccine. There is no danger with the dengue vaccine,” Roque told reporters.
“The ‘severe dengue’ that is mentioned by Sanofi will involve symptoms that include two days of fever and hemophilia, the patches on the skin. It is not the deadly type of dengue,” he added.
Sanofi Pasteur on Monday said there had yet to be deaths reported because of Dengvaxia, denying the claim of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption that three children had died because of the vaccine.
“As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination,” Sanofi Medical Director Ruby Dizon said.
“Of course, rest assured, monitoring is continuing, we are working with the Department of Health, in collaboration, to make sure this is maintained,” she added.
Sanofi Pasteur Global Medical head Ng Su-Peing said the vaccine has a protective effect of six years for those with prior exposure to dengue, an acute viral infection transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito and may result in death if left untreated.
“Vaccinated individuals previously infected with dengue show clear and sustained benefit of the vaccine of up to 6 years,” Ng said.
“All study participants who got severe dengue whether vaccinated or not have fully recovered” she added.
Last week, Sanofi announced that its world-first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.
Its study on the vaccine found that only one out of every 10 people without prior infection would acquire dengue.
But Roque said “there will be nine out of 10 who will be protected from acquiring what could be not just serious but possibly a deadly stage of dengue.”
“Wala pong dahilan para mag-panic. Tama naman po na nagkaroon ng konting bahala tayo dahil hindi naman natin alam na matapos maibigay sa mga kabataan akala natin complete immunity na from dengue (There is no reason to panic. It is understandable to be a little worried because we thought that vaccination would mean complete immunity from dengue),” he said.
The previous Aquino administration implemented a national school-based, anti-dengue immunization program in 2016 using Dengvaxia. Under the Duterte administration, the program was expanded to Region 7. Children aged 9 to 14 in Cebu province were administered the first dose of the vaccine.
The Department of Health (DoH) said more than 733,000 children — aged 9 and above — from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon have already received at least the first three doses of the vaccine.
During the Palace news briefing, Health spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy clarified that only 10 percent of the more than 700,000 children vaccinated by Dengvaxia ran the risk of developing severe dengue.
“You may develop. You may be at risk. But we’re not saying that one out 10 would eventually develop severe dengue,” he added.
Suy assured the public that the government would monitor children who received the dengue vaccine for the next few years.
“We have on hand right now to our regional offices all the addresses of all the recipients of this vaccine. It’s part of our commitment. We’re going to monitor them. We’re going to look into them as well,” he said.
Suy also said the DoH was ready to face probe into the controversial dengue vaccine project.
“We’re ready for that (complaints) because that’s the prerogative of the parents… The DoH’s intentions is really to provide protection. We’re ready. May mga dokumento naman kami na magpapatunay naman na maayos naman lahat (We have documents that will prove everything is right),” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on the government to create a “Luzon and Cebu-wide database” to identify over 70,000 children considered to be “at risk,” meaning they have not been infected by the virus before immunization.
Ng Su-Peing said there had been no notice from regulatory bodies yet recalling Dengvaxia.
“No one has asked for product recall, so far. They have agreed to our proposal to work with doctors so they’re informed with new info[rmation],” Ng said
The Philippines is one of 11 countries that approved the commercial release of Dengvaxia, along with Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.
An average of 200,000 cases of dengue is reported every year.
‘Make sure all vaccines safe’
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday told the DoH to assure that next year’s vaccines would meet the highest standards as the government was set to buy P7.4 billion worth of vaccines in 2018.
“If there’s one lesson to be learned from the [dengue vaccine fiasco], it is that Filipino children should not be made guinea pigs again,” Recto said.
“Whether we like it or not, one side effect of this unfortunate incident is that people are asking if the vaccines to be bought using taxpayers money are safe,” he said.
Sanofi Regional Director Joselito Sta. Ana addressed the criticism that they used Filipino schoolchildren as “guinea pigs” for their dengue vaccine.
“The Department of Health program is a public health program, not a clinical trial, so Filipinos were not used as guinea pigs,” Sta. Ana told reporters.
Costing P7.43 billion, the 2018 public vaccination program targets full immunization of 2.7 million infants, of which 1.4 million infants will be given pneumococcal vaccine.
All 2.7 million infants will also be administered the Japanese encephalitis vaccine. In addition, 2.1 million Grade 1 and 1.7 million Grade 7 pupils will benefit from anti-tetanus-diptheria, and measles vaccines.
The tetanus vaccine will be given to 2.7 million pregnant women while 1.2 million flu shots and 1.3 million pneumococcal vaccines will be administered to seniors.
According to the DoH briefer submitted to the Senate, full immunization for infants cover inoculations against hepatitis, polio, pneumonia, measles, mumps and rubella.
Militants want probe
The leftist bloc of the House of Representatives will file a House resolution this week to probe the Dengvaxia vaccine and the risks it imposes.
Members of the Gabriela party-list on Monday said in a statement the “haphazard” implementation of the P3.4-billion anti-dengue vaccine program “has put the health and lives of thousands of Filipino children in danger.”
“Over 70,000 Filipino children are at risk of more severe symptoms due to the Dengvaxia vaccine, and this is not a joke. This is a potential public health crisis that should not be downplayed and dismissed by the DoH, Malacañang and Sanofi Pasteur by blanket assurances,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said.
De Jesus said it was “reprehensible” for the DoH to implement the program with only the backing of a big pharmaceutical company in Sanofi Pasteur as basis.
De Jesus added that a completed clinical study on the vaccine’s safety had yet to be done when the program was implemented in 2016.
The party-list’s other Representative Arlene Brosas called on the government to provide safety measures instead of just shrugging the controversy off.
“The Palace should provide pro-active measures to address the risks posed by Dengvaxia instead of merely stating that there is so far no reported case of severe dengue infection.
What is the government’s contingency plan? What will be the screening process to identify children at risk?” said Brosas said.
WITH KENNETH HERNANDEZ, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO AND RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA