HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd on Thursday said the Department of Health (DoH) would soon file a civil case for damages against Sanofi Pasteur, following the French pharmaceutical giant’s second refusal to refund used anti-dengue vaccine vials worth P1.6 billion and shell out money for an indemnification fund for vaccine recipients.
In a statement, Duque said he had forwarded the reply of the Dengvaxia vaccine manufacturer – which bared health risks arising from its vaccine only in November after more than 800,000 people have received the shots – to the DoH legal department.
“I have forwarded the letter to the Legal Department and ordered that a civil suit be instituted against Sanofi
Pasteur,” the Cabinet official said.
Duque pointed out that Sanofi’s labeling on the vaccine did not specify the recommended use or risk of the vaccine.
Prior to the advisory of Sanofi in November of risks of the vaccine for those who had no history of dengue infection, the manufacturer never issued a warning, Duque said.
“It is regrettable that this crucial information was only made public by Sanofi Pasteur after the DoH has implemented the vaccine program to about 837,000 children,” he said.
Earlier this week, Sanofi refused the DoH’s demands, saying a refund would mean the vaccine was ineffective.
“We stand firmly behind our product. Refunding the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case. And at this time, there is also no known circumstance requiring indemnification,” Sanofi said in a statement.
In January, Sanofi agreed to a refund of the unused vials of the vaccine, worth P1.4 billion, stored in DoH warehouses.
The Health department also requested the company to conduct “serotesting” on inoculated children at no cost to the government.
A report by an independent expert panel from the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital has found that out of 14 children who died after being injected with Dengvaxia, three were because of the vaccine. Two of the three were said to be due to “vaccine failure.”
The dengue immunization program was initiated in 2016 as a school-based program under Health Secretary Janette Garin, despite incomplete clinical trials.
So far, more than 20 children inoculated with Dengvaxia have died, although it has yet to be established whether the vaccine was the cause.
‘PNoy wasn’t a doctor’
A member of the Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday virtually cleared former President Benigno Aquino 3rd of any liability in the Dengvaxia controversy.
Speaking before the Kapihan sa Senado news forum, Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian said Aquino relied on his officials, specifically Garin, as regards the vaccination program.
“In my opinion, since the former president is not a doctor, he [relied]on the former secretary who is a doctor, so I think the buck stops with the former secretary,” Gatchalian said, referring to Garin.
Former health secretary Paulyn Ubial should also be held liable for expanding the vaccination program to Central Visayas, he said.
Ubial had admitted to the Senate blue ribbon panel that she was forced to expand the program because of pressure from some politicians.
“In my opinion she is also liable…In effect you succumbed to political pressure because you want to save your job,” Gatchalian said.