Duque sets up DOH task force to probe dengue vaccination program

Mara Cepeda
Duque sets up DOH task force to probe dengue vaccination program
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III says PhilHealth is ready to cover up to P16,000 worth of expenses of any child who will be hospitalized due to severe dengue

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has created a task force that will review the implementation of the now-suspended dengue vaccination program and determine how to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

Duque said on Friday, December 8, that the task force is composed of top officials from the following:

  • DOH Central Office
  • DOH regional offices in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon, the 3 regions where the school-based dengue immunization program was launched last year
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation
  • National Children’s Hospital

“This task force will conduct a thorough review of the dengue vaccination initiative which started in March 2016 and the new evidence on safety provided by Sanofi,” said Duque in a statement. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

“This shall guide the Department of Health in responding to the safety concerns relevant to the use of this vaccine and how to proceed with the dengue program to ensure safeguards and prevent similar incidents in the future,” he added.

Last week, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur announced that its Dengvaxia dengue vaccine may lead to “more severe” cases of dengue on a vaccinated person who had not been infected by the virus before.

Duque already suspended the dengue vaccination program last December 1, but not before the DOH was able to give the risky vaccine to more than 700,000 Filipino grade schoolers in NCR, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon. 

Another 15,000 police officers, their relatives, and walk-in civilians also received the vaccine from an immunization program in Quezon City. 

Now, Duque said he will demand that Sanofi refund the P3.5 billion the Philippine government paid for the Dengvaxia vaccine. (READ: Duque to go after Sanofi over dengue vaccine

“We will demand the refund of the P3.5 billion paid for the Dengvaxia vaccine, and that Sanofi set up an indemnification fund to cover the hospitalization and medical treatment for all children who might have severe dengue,” he said. 

The DOH will also be hiring 30 additional surveillance officers to be deployed in the regions where the vaccination program was conducted. DOH plans to closely monitor the vaccinated children for 5 years. 

The DOH is currently updating its master list of students who received the vaccine. 

Duque said PhilHealth is also ready to cover up to P16,000 worth of medical expenses of any child who will be hospitalized for severe dengue. 

“We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring our children for any adverse event following immunization, and will strengthen the readiness of our public hospitals in attending to any severe dengue cases that may occur,” said Duque. – 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.