Gabriela: Will gov't ask Sanofi to return P3.5 billion?
MANILA, Philippines – Progressive group Gabriela on Monday, December 4, called on the government to provide "proactive measures" in response to the "risks" brought by dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
"The Palace should provide proactive measures to address the risks posed by Dengvaxia instead of merely stating that there is so far no reported case of severe dengue infection. What is the government's contingency plan? What will be the screening process to identify children at risk?" said Gabriela Representative Emmi de Jesus in a statement on Monday.
French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has admitted that the vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent dengue after all. Those who got the vaccine without prior infection also face the risk of contracting severe dengue.
The Department of Health (DOH) has since suspended its dengue immunization program for public school students.
The DOH earlier bought P3.5 billion worth of the vaccine in early 2016, or during the Aquino administration. Since then, more than 700,000 Filipino youth have been administered the vaccine under the government's program. About 10% of these youth, or 70,000, are at risk of a more severe type of dengue within two years of getting the vaccine.
"Will the government ask Sanofi to return the P3.5 billion to government coffers? It is not enough that the Duterte regime has suspended the immunization program," said De Jesus.
Under the Duterte administration, former health secretary Paulyn Ubial signed a July 2016 resolution recommending the deferment of the program, saying the vaccine was not yet proven safe. But in September 2016, Ubial issued a Certificate of Exemption for the vaccine.
De Jesus said she and other lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc would be filing a House resolution calling for a probe into the immunization program, as the "haphazard administration of [the] vaccine has put the health and lives of thousands of Filipino children in danger."
De Jesus criticized Malacañang, Sanofi, and the DOH for "downplaying and dismissing" the issue.
"It is reprehensible that the health department implemented the immunization program in 2016 based only on the apparent big pharma lobbying and ahead of any completed clinical study on the vaccine's safety," she added.
De Jesus said they will support parents who would want to file a class suit against Sanofi and government officials.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the Dengvaxia controversy. – Rappler.com