MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will issue a department order tasking the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with the probe of the 2016 Dengvaxia deal in the wake of reports that the world’s first-ever dengue vaccine poses a risk to individuals with no prior dengue infection.
The Department of Health (DOH) had received information from Dengvaxia manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, that a child who has not had dengue before receiving the vaccine could suffer from severe dengue after a 30-month period.
Aguirre said he has personally received a number of complaints from parents of children injected with the Dengvaxia vaccine by health officers.
“One complained to me that his son who was inoculated of that anti-dengue vaccine in April 2016 is now sick of ‘baby TB’ and his immune system is now very weak and has become a financial burden to them,” said Aguirre.
WIth this, Aguirre will tap the NBI to conduct a fact-finding probe to determine possible liabilities of officials behind the project that was approved by former Health Secretary Janette Garin and other top officials of the previous administration.
“I will prepare ASAP the appropriate department order. Everybody who has some involvement will be included and appropriate charges will be filed against them if warranted,” Aguirre said when sought for comment at the weekend.
Initial information reaching the DOJ showed that the program was approved by Garin and the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III despite strong objections from medical experts due to lack of certification from the World Health Organization.
It was also learned that the DOH was warned about the possible effects of the first dengue vaccine on those who have not contracted dengue yet, but it still approved the program — virtuallly making Filipino children “guinea pigs” of a clinical test.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption has also called on the DOJ to investigate the issue and is set to formalize its request this week.
Last Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH had placed the dengue vaccination program on hold while a review and consultations are ongoing with experts, key stakeholders, and the WHO.
Duque said they will coordinate with schools in Central Luzon, Calabarzon and the National Capital Region and selected cities covered by the program to trace those who have no history of dengue but received the vaccine.
The surveillance will also be made through rural health units, which will monitor the health of these children, he added.
DOH spokesperson, Assistant Secretary LyndonLee Suy, said a total of 733,713 children have received the free dengue vaccine under the DOH’s school-based immunization program launched in 2016.
The recipients — nine-year-old public school students in the three regions — were given three doses of the vaccine, six months apart.
Lee Suy said these children, especially those who have not had dengue, will be monitored.
“We will clear the numbers in terms of who these children are,” he added.
Lee Suy noted that this does not mean that all the children who received the vaccine are at risk.
For his part, Dr. Julius Lecciones, Philippine Children’s Medical Center chief, said Brazil has decided to continue the vaccination to prove that they are looking at the beneficial side of the vaccine.
“There is a reduction of 93 percent in the severity of the (dengue) disease and 82 percent in reduction in hospitalization. These are very significant benefits” among those who had been infected by dengue before and had received the vaccine, he explained.
On issues linking the vaccine to death, Lecciones said that so far, no confirmed death has been attributed to the dengue vaccination program in the country.
On the two cases of death reported last year that were linked to Dengvaxia, he said there was no direct relation to the vaccine since it was revealed that one of the patients had a pre-existing heart condition that was complicated by diarrhea, while the other had Japanese encephalitis.