Public health expert seeks legal action vs dengue vaccine program
MANILA, Philippines – A former Department of Health (DOH) official wants legal action to be taken against officials responsible for the now-suspended school-based dengue vaccination program.
In a Facebook post, public health expert Dr Susan Pineda Mercado, former DOH undersecretary, tagged the program as the “biggest government funded clinical-trial-masked-as-a-public-health-program scam of an experimental drug in the history of the DOH.”
“Legal action is now necessary. Families should be compensated for damages and the decision-makers behind this deal should be brought to justice,” said Mercado.
“We need a core group of lawyers for a legal strategy. As several countries are involved, multiple organizations for the protection of children should join forces,” she added.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III suspended the vaccination program on Friday, December 1, after Sanofi Pasteur announced that its Dengvaxia dengue vaccine is more risky when administered on a person who had not been infected by the virus before.
The DOH has already given the vaccine to more than 700,000 9-year-old public school students in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon prior to Sanofi’s advisory.
The vaccination program was launched in April 2016 under DOH chief Janette Garin during the administration of Benigno Aquino III. A total of P3.5 billion was used to buy these vaccines, funded through sin tax revenues. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)
Many health experts, like Pineda, questioned the timing of the mass vaccination program, saying it was simply too early to do so when studies on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy have not been completed.
“This was reckless and irresponsible from the start and the public was deceived into thinking this vaccine would protect children from dengue. The public health community has been outraged for over a year,” she said.
A parent’s anger
Pineda’s sentiments were shared by parent Ranie Esmeña, whose 9-year-old child, Princess, was vaccinated at a health center in Taguig last year.
He told Rappler that he is dismayed at DOH and Sanofi for putting his child at risk.
“Natural po meron [akong galit sa kanila] kasi 'di namin po akalain na ganoon pala ‘yong kalalabasan o epekto ng mga bakuna na gamit po nila. At ‘di nila sinigurado kung tama ba o maganda [ang] epekto sa katawan ng bata,” said Esmeña, who works as a chef in a mall restaurant in Riyadh.
(It’s natural for me to be angry because we didn’t expect that the outcome of the vaccine they used will be like this. They didn’t ensure that the effect on the child would be good.)
“Ngayon lang po ako medyo sumama po ang loob kasi di lang ‘yong anak ko ang nabakunahan, kundi marami po sila sa buong NCR po. Kahit sinong magulang po magagalit at mag-aalala, ‘di po ba?” he added.
(Now, I am dismayed because my child wasn’t the only one vaccinated but so many others more in NCR. Any parent would be angry and worried too, right?)
Now, Esmeña is among the parents who is hoping the DOH will make good on its promise to closely monitor the health of all vaccinated Filipino gradeschoolers.
Duque, however, said DOH will still study all documents and processes behind the dengue vaccination program before they can decide whether or not to pursue legal action. – Rappler.com