[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Dengvaxia hysteria: Go back to the core issue

It’s been more than two months since the dengue vaccine controversy broke. Amid congressional hearings on the issue, investigations by executive agencies, complaints filed in court, and the spins of interest groups, it’s easy to lose sight of what set off this public policy maelstrom. 

In late November 2017, the French company Sanofi Pasteur, which manufactured Dengvaxia, released an update on its years-long clinical tests. If the vaccine is given to a child who had not had dengue before, it said, the vaccine would even increase his risk of contracting a more severe type of the mosquito-borne infection. 

The pharma giant released that latest finding more than a year after hundreds of thousands of Filipino children aged 9 and up had received Dengvaxia, in a mass vaccination campaign by the health department under the Aquino government. 

In the war of words, these stories dominate now: 

While experts debate these two issues, we forget what brought these about was the Aquino government’s seeming rush to enter a deal with Sanofi, pay the multibillion-peso billing, and roll out the massive immunization campaign – skirting rules and taking shortcuts to make it possible. 

In our editorial last December, in time for the resumption of Senate and House probes into the Dengvaxia mess, we already listed questions that these investigations should find answers to. Our point then, which remains so now, was to identify liabilities and make the accountable officials of the Aquino administration and the current one (if warranted) face the consequences. (READ: #AnimatEd: Somebody has to answer for the dengue vaccine disaster

From the hearings conducted by Senator Richard Gordon, we see other red flags:  

We also gather that:

Let medical experts debate and resolve the issue of Dengvaxia’s efficacy. Let public health advocates help in allaying the fears of parents toward other kinds of vaccines. 

But let’s also do a special audit of this deal. File cases against past officials who rushed the purchase and rollout of Dengvaxia, and broke rules and laws in the process. The spotlight, the public scrutiny, should train on them again. – Rappler.com