‘Probe dengue vaccine program’


    THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) will ask authorities to conduct an investigation in connection with the dengue immunization program, after the manufacturer warned of problems in the vaccine.

    The Department of Health (DoH) ordered the suspension of the program on Friday after the supplier, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, said that “for those not previously infected by dengue virus,” the Dengvaxia vaccine might cause “more cases of severe disease.”

    DAMAGES LOOM Dante Jimenez (left), chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, calls for an investigation into the government’s dengue vaccination program in a Quezon City forum. With him are actress Vivian Velez (center) and Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing (right). PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    “We will file first a letter-request to the Department of Justice…and request the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an exhaustive, in-depth investigation,” Dante Jimenez, founding chairman and president of VACC, said in an interview.

    Jimenez urged the DoH to set up complaint centers in areas where the vaccination program was implemented, especially in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

    “We have to know who were affected, so that once something happens to them, they can claim damages from the government. That’s important,” Jimenez said.

    “Or so that we will know who [were vaccinated]so that when a medicine to counter this is discovered, we already know who should be provided with it,” he added.

    Dengue, which is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is an acute viral infection that may result in death of left untreated.

    Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, earlier said in a statement that “[t]he analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection.”

    “For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” it said.

    ‘Worst-case scenario’

    The DoH said on Saturday it was prepared for a “worst-case scenario.”

    Undersecretary Eric Tayag said the department had already taken precautions against potential mishaps when it became the first country to use the landmark vaccine in 2016.

    More than 733,000 children have already received Dengvaxia, raising fears that many could develop the harsher form of the disease.

    “The Department of Health is prepared for a worst-case scenario,” Tayag told ABS-CBN television, a day after the agency announced it was suspending its mass vaccination program.

    Tayag said the government had been careful to only implement the scheme in areas where dengue was already widespread and had only given it to children aged nine or older.

    “They are being followed up for adverse effects following immunization,” he said.

    He added that the department, which had previously said there were no reported cases of worsened infection among those who received the vaccine, was also checking hospital records for severe cases of dengue.

    Sanofi had said such acute dengue cases would not become apparent till about five years after vaccination, Tayag added.

    The developer initially said its Dengvaxia vaccine was “critical” in the fight against dengue, the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus.

    More than 1,000 people in the Philippines died from dengue last year, out of more than 211,000 suspected cases, according to the government.



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