DOH demands full refund from Sanofi over Dengvaxia vaccine

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is now demanding French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur to fully refund the Philippine government the P3 billion it paid to purchase vials of the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday, January 29 that he demanded Sanofi to do a full refund in a demand letter sent to its Asia Pacific head Thomas Triomphe on Friday, January 26. 

“We already submitted to the Sanofi [official]. I think this was last week for the used vaccine,” said Duque in an ambush interview.

He said the DOH now wants to be fully refunded “because the purported or reported or claimed protection [of Dengvaxia] wasn’t felt and wasn’t there.”

“And in fact, they withdrew the label. They did a re-labelling because they said you can no longer use this for seronegative children who never had past dengue infection,” said Duque.

This is in compliance with Malacañang’s view that a full refund over the Dengvaxia mess should be demanded by the Philippine government. 

Duque initially only wanted Sanofi to pay the country back P1.5 billion for the unused dengue vaccine vials that had been kept in DOH’s warehouses. 

Sanofi already agreed to the partial refund, but Duque said the DOH is yet to hear from the company regarding the demand for a full reimbursement.

Dengvaxia was the vaccine used when former DOH chief Janette Garin launched the dengue immunization program in public schools in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon in April 2016. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

Public health experts were alarmed then, arguing clinical trials on the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of Dengvaxia have not been completed at the time.

Their fears were confirmed in end-November 2017, when Sanofi announced new analysis of 6 years’ worth of clinical data showed Dengvaxia may cause a person to develop severe dengue symptoms if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior immunization.

Duque immediately suspended the program, but not before some 837,000 children got the risky vaccine.

The DOH is on now on a heightened surveillance mode for the vaccinated children, whose health status will be observed in the next 5 years.

On Monday, Duque already gave his marching orders on how regional directors and DOH hospitals  should monitor and manage cases of vaccinated kids who will later develop dengue.

This includes ensuring hospitalization costs of the vaccination children should be covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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