MANILA, Philippines — Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on Wednesday expressed willingness to attend in the next Senate investigation into the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program implemented under his administration.
It can be recalled that in 2015, Aquino ordered the realignment of the immunization fund from the budget to procure three million doses of the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.
“We want to participate in telling the truth to the people, as we have always done; at the same time, observing compliance to various laws, rules and traditions,” Aquino said.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III called on Aquino to attend the Senate inquiry for his “own good.”
“I think the former president should himself come forward… and say, ‘This is what happened and this is what I agreed to based on some recommendation that I followed because somebody had advised me,” Duque said in a television interview last week.
Duque also directed the suspension of the dengue vaccination program upon pending recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) following a post-clinical analysis from Sanofi that stat 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.
Duque also lambasted the officials of Sanofi for being “dishonest” on not revealing the potential risks of the dengue vaccine early on.
Aquino approved the vaccination program that started in April 2016 pushing the health department to give shots to children, nine-year-old and above, from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and the CALABARZON region.
Over 733,000 students from public schools in the said regions have received at least the first of three doses of the vaccine.
Dr. Antonio Leachon, an independent doctor from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), said in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda that 90,000 of vaccinated individuals are at risk.
With this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has urged the public for continued participation in the “post-marketing surveillance of Dengvaxia” by reporting any incident that shows the dengue vaccine has led to death, serious illness, or injury of a patient.
The Department of Education (DepEd), with DOH, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) agreed to implement reinforced monitoring and surveillance for vaccinated children in the affected regions.