Aquino should explain why he approved dengue vaccine – Duque

Mara Cepeda
Aquino should explain why he approved dengue vaccine – Duque
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says ex-president Benigno Aquino III can help address rumors over the controversial dengue immunization program

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III believes former president Benigno Aquino III should explain why he supported the now-suspended dengue immunization program, which was launched during his term.

“Absolutely, he should [come forward] to clear this because everybody is just speculating,” Duque told ANC’s Headstart on Thursday, December 7.

“I think the former president should himself come forward and say, ‘This is what happened and this is why I agreed to [it], based on some recommendation that I followed because somebody had advised me,'” added Duque.

Last week, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur disclosed that its Dengvaxia vaccine could lead to “more severe” cases of dengue when administered on a person who had not been infected by the virus before. (READ: Sanofi: Dengvaxia not guaranteed to prevent dengue)

The dengue immunization program for Grade 4 students in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon was launched on April 4, 2016 by Aquino’s health chief Janette Garin. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

The target was to vaccinate around one million kids using Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia. Since then, more than 700,000 Filipino grade-schoolers and another 15,000 cops, their dependents, and walk-in civilians got the vaccine.

Sanofi officials, led by chief executive officer Oliver Charmeil, had paid a courtesy call on Aquino at the Hotel Scribe in Paris, France on December 1, 2015.

Three weeks later, the Philippines became the first Asian country to approve commercial sale of the world’s first dengue vaccine. 

On January 5, 2016, Garin told reporters that Aquino approved the administration of the dengue vaccine to 1,077,623 9-year-old public school students in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.

A whopping P3.5 billion was sourced from sin tax revenues to fund the immunization program.

By February 11, 2016, the first doses of Dengvaxia arrived in the country. 

The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to reopen its probe into the dengue immunization program on Monday, December 11. The House committee on health as well as committee on good government and public accountability will also reopen their investigation on Wednesday, December 13.

Duque is already determined to hold Sanofi accountable over the dengue vaccine controversy. He is also mulling asking for a refund and demanding that the company set up an indemnity fund for vaccinated children who would be hospitalized due to dengue in the future. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.