HEALTH Secretary Enrique Ona blamed the leadership at the Department of Health (DoH) in 2014 for the “nightmare” the country was currently facing over the controversy regarding the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Janette Garin took over the DoH after Ona resigned in 2014. Then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Ona in 2010.
At the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon inquiry into the P3.5 billion purchase of the drug, Ona, whom President Rodrigo Duterte reappointed to the top post at the DoH in 2017, said that during his time, he did not allocate funding for Dengue vaccine for 2015 because it was still in the developmental stage and undergoing evaluation.
In fact, Ona said, a 2015 article published by the New England Journal of Medicine has concluded that “the efficacy profile at 25 months surveillance was complex”.
Ona said that based on the article it was clear that even at that time, it was obvious that Dengvaxia was not ready for distribution.
“Any expert in public health would have waited for more studies to further evaluate the safety and efficacy sans cost,” he told the committee.
Duque also noted that during his four-year stint at the DoH, Sanofi Pasteur, the producer of the dengue vaccine, would brief him on a yearly basis on the status of the clinical trial being conducted by the pharmaceutical firm in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, and in the other countries in South America.
He also admitted that the anti-dengue vaccine was of great interest to him because dengue was rampant in the Philippines at that time, infecting more than 100,000 individuals annually.
However, Ona said, Sanofi during the trial process and until he left the DoH never claimed that the vaccine was ready for general use and only gave vague projections on the clinical trials.
“In light of this Sanofi Pasteur advisory on the use of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, the leadership that took over the DoH after I left in December 20, 2014 are solely responsible for all the decisions that has resulted in what was becoming to be a major health nightmare in the country,” Ona said.
The health department during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd has inoculated at least 850,000 school children in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon) under the school-based anti-dengue vaccination program.
Sanofi in November 2017, however, issued a statement admitting that Dengvaxia could increase risk of hospitalization for dengue and severe dengue on individuals who have not been previously infected by the disease. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA