Duterte defends officials blamed for Dengvaxia controversy

Pia Ranada
Duterte defends officials blamed for Dengvaxia controversy
President Rodrigo Duterte says he would have probably approved the dengue immunization program if he were in their place

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte came to the defense of government officials who approved the purchase of the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine, saying that if he were in their place, he would have probably done the same thing.

“If I were the president [at the time] and there’s a vaccine that was already paid for and the studies show according to the clinical studies of that company, I as president, ako rin, sabihin ko (I will also say), ‘You implement it if it would save lives,'” said Duterte on Wednesday, December 13.

Pending a complete investigation on who must be punished for the purchase of the vaccine, Duterte said he can’t condemn anyone. He believes officials like former health secretary Janette Garin likely acted “in good faith.”

“I cannot blame anybody. I am not prepared to condemn anybody, simply because binili nga natin ‘yun eh, kung mahal eh ‘yung presyo wala sa akin (we bought it, if it’s expensive it doesn’t matter). Any amount that would save the Filipino, lalo na ‘yung mga bata (especially the children),” he said.

Government officials back then, he believes, were acting based on the studies and information they had at the time. With the many dengue cases in the Philippines, Duterte said it was reasonable for authorities to want to purchase Dengvaxia. (READ: Aquino should explain why he approved dengue vaccine – Duque)

Duterte also does not want to assume that reported deaths due to severe dengue are “automatically connected” to Dengvaxia vaccinations of persons who had no prior dengue infection.

He wants first that pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur and health officials be “given the chance to be heard and air their findings.” (READ: Sanofi insists ‘no reason for public scare’ after dengue vaccine advisory)

He trusts that congressional investigations or another independent probe could get to the bottom of the controversy. (READ: Aquino, Abad, Ochoa to face Senate probe into dengue vaccine)

The President also does not think Sanofi Pasteur would give the Philippines a faulty vaccine on purpose.

Calling the French company “reputable in the world of drug manufacturing,” Duterte said, “I don’t think they would be ready to destroy a billion-dollar business just for one lousy – if there is a failure, let them sort it out in an independent investigation.” (READ: Permanent removal of Dengvaxia ‘disservice to Filipino people’ – Sanofi– Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.