The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday announced that it has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the P3.5 –billion anti-dengue vaccine drive of the Department of Health (DOH) that allegedly put thousands of children at risk.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Department Order No. 763, ordering the NBI to investigate and build a case over the alleged danger to public health, surfacing from the vaccination program carried out by the DOH and the manufacturer of ‘Dengvaxia,’ Sanofi Pasteur.
This program started in April 2016 during the term of former Health Secretary Janette Garin, providing free vaccines to chosen Grade 4 public school pupils in three regions with the highest number of dengue cases — Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
Aguirre questioned the previous administration for spending billions to fund the immunization program.
“Tama ba ang pag-order kaagad ng ganito karaming vaccine na worth P3.5 billion? Na naturukan agad ang 733,000 children, tama ba ito, kahit apat buwan pa lang nama-manufacture ito (Was it right to order P3.5-billion worth of vaccine and inject it to 733,000 children? Was it right to procure the vaccines of if it has only been manufactured for four months)?” the Justice Secretary said in a press conference.
The NBI will investigate whether Sanofi has tackled with the DOH the proper warning that the vaccine should not be injected to somebody who has not caught dengue before.
Sanofi Pasteur on Monday explained that for those who have not acquired dengue before but have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia, there is a high risk of hospitalization when the individual catches dengue virus.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which sought for an NBI probe, said it has recorded three deaths in Central Luzon allegedly as an outcome of the dengue vaccination.
“Nagkaroon ng parang warning yung Sanofi Pasteur, yung manufacturer, sa government officials kaya ang susunod na tanong ay nasunod ba? O naiparating ba ito sa karamihan ng nasa DOH? Kung itong warning ng Sanofi ay talagang naibigay at kung naibigay, ito ba ay talagang naipatupad ng ating DOH officials (There was a warning from Sanofi Pasteurm, the manufacturer, to the government officials that’s why the next question is was it followed? Or was it disseminated to the officials of DOH? If this was really disseminated, was it really executed by the DOH officials?),” Aguirre said.
The DOH on Friday called off its dengue vaccination drive after a French manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, issued a statement that more cases of severe disease could happen among those who received Dengvaxia without previous history of dengue.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said 733,713 children from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon were injected the first three doses of Dengvaxia since it began in 2016.
The Health Departmend said it would assess the drive in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd) to track the condition of students who have been administered with the vaccine.
Aguirre, on the other hand, urged parents of the children vaccinated to communicate with the NBI and give information which will help on the investigation.