DOJ to probe dengue vaccine controversy

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice is set to probe the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccine after it was found that it causes “severe” health risks to children without prior infection of the virus. (READ: Vaccinated Filipino youth now at risk of getting severe dengue)

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he would ask the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a fact-finding probe into the procurement and administration of the vaccine Dengvaxia, which started during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III. Aquino's health secretary then was Janet Garin.

"I will prepare [as soon as possible] the appropriate department order. Everybody who has some involvement will be included and appropriate charges will be filed against them if warranted," Aguirre said on Sunday, December 3.

The DOJ said that based on information they received, the program was approved and implemented by the previous administration despite strong objections from experts. At the time, there was no certification yet from the World Health Organization.

Senators and other government officials also raised questions why the DOH pushed through with the plan despite warnings of the vaccine’s possible side effects.

Aguirre claimed he had received complaints from parents whose children were vaccinated.

"One complained to me that his son who was inoculated of that anti-dengue vaccine in April 2016 is now sick of ‘baby tb (tuberculosis)’ and his immune system is now very weak and has become a financial burden to them," Aguirre said.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to administer the vaccine produced by Sanofi.

The Senate, for its part, is set on investigating the issue. Senate health committee chair Joseph Victor Ejercito he would call for an probe in January with the Senate blue ribbon committee, which has already started the probe early this year.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has already suspended the dengue vaccination program. – Rappler.com