DOH won’t file cases over Dengvaxia issue, will focus on kids’ safety

Mara Cepeda
DOH won’t file cases over Dengvaxia issue, will focus on kids’ safety
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III leaves it up the DOJ, the NBI, and non-governmental groups to go after Aquino administration officials and Sanofi Pasteur

MANILA, Philippines – Don’t expect the Department of Health (DOH) to file any cases against officials who should be held accountable for the now-suspended dengue vaccination program. 

Instead, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the agency would be focused on monitoring the health of 837,000 grade schoolers who received Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia dengue vaccine. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

“We don’t want to be filing the cases ourselves because our plates are full. We need to watch out for the 873,000 students who had been vaccinated. And to us, that is paramount, the health of those children, and to ensure that the risk is mitigated, if not eliminated,” said Duque in a media forum held at the Manila Hotel on Friday, January 5. 

Fourteen children who got vaccinated have died, but only around 4 had dengue as their cause of death. 

DOH has submitted their medical records to a panel of doctors at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital to assess whether Dengvaxia had anything to do with the children’s deaths. 

The DOH chief said he would leave it up to other agencies, like the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation, to probe the dengue immunization program. (READ: Aguirre orders PAO to assist families of Dengvaxia vaccine recipients)

Duque said DOH would also not get in the way should independent groups – like the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, and Gabriela – file cases against French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pateur and the officials who implemented the vaccination program.

Next week, Duque is set to visit all the schools in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon, where students at least 9 years old and above received the Dengvaxia vaccine when the program was launched by ex-DOH secretary Janette Garin in April 2016.

He will also visit Cebu, as the dengue vaccination program was expanded there by Garin’s successor Paulyn Ubial. (READ: Congress ‘pressured’ Ubial to continue dengue vaccination program

During the visit, Duque will check if local DOH officials have followed his directives, like setting up posters containing frequently asked questions on Dengvaxia and dengue fever inside classrooms.

FAQS. DOH's poster will contain information like the signs and symptoms of dengue and what the government can do to help vaccinated children. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

The DOH secretary will also organize dialogues with parents whose children were vaccinated. (READ: DOH to give ballers, health monitoring cards to kids who got Dengvaxia)

Duque had suspended the dengue vaccination program in December 2017 after Sanofi said Dengvaxia could lead to a more severe case of dengue when administered on a person who had not been infected by the virus prior immunization.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited Sanofi from selling Dengvaxia in the country for a year after the company failed to comply with post-marketing authorization requirements. The FDA had also slapped the French pharmaceutical giant with a P100,000 fee.

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.