Malacañang on Monday reminded the public to not panic over the government’s dengue vaccination program, saying the Department of Justice (DOJ) will start a probe on the purchase of Dengvaxia that supposedly poses health risks to children already vaccinated but without a history of the disease.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. reassured Filipinos that President Rodrigo Duterte would take action once the investigation proves that there were irregularities in the P3.5 billion procurement of the vaccine.
“To allay the fears of the public, the DOJ has stated that it has initiated the investigation on the purchase of this vaccine… I think the investigation will benefit everyone including those that made the decision to purchase the medicine. If there are any irregularities, we will find out,” Roque said.
“So huwag po tayo mag-panic. At kung meron naman pong ibang datos na magpapakita na talagang may dahilan para maabala ang publiko, sasabihin naman po ‘yan ni Presidente Duterte. Wala po kaming itatago sa publiko [We should not panic.. If there are data that would show there are reasons for the public to express alarm, President Duterte would tell it. We will not hide anything from the public,” Roque added.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that he would tap the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to initiate a fact-finding investigation to determine possible accountabilities of officials behind the purchase that was approved by former health chief Janette Garin.
“I will prepare ASAP the appropriate department order. Everybody who has some involvement will be included and appropriate charges will be filed against them if warranted,” Aquirre said in a text message.
The Dengvaxia vaccine mess sparked after an advisory from French-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur said that new clinical study has found out the vaccine is effective for individuals who have had dengue before immunization, emphasizing the risk of a “severe” dengue case for people who have not.
“Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefits against dengue in those who has prior infection. For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” Sanofi Pasteur said in its statement.
This issue pushed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to direct the suspension of the dengue vaccination program pending recommendation from the WHO.
Over 733,000 students from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon, nine years old and above, have received at least the first of three doses of the vaccine.
Duque, trying to calm parents, said that the vaccine will provide a 30-month protection period against dengue, assuring the public that the DOH is in control of the situation.
Meanwhile, DOH Assistant Secretary and infectious disease specialist Lyndon Lee Suy conveyed the health department’s commitment to open itself to any investigation.
Suy added that they will continuously monitor the condition of Filipino recipients who already received doses of the vaccine.
“We have on hand right now in our regional offices, lahat ng address ng mga bata o ng mga recipient ng bakunang ito. It’s part of our commitment. We’re going to monitor them,” he said.