The Department of Health (DOH) will ask the Philippine government to use a portion of the P1-billion refund from French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur for the unused dengue vaccine Dengvaxia to assist the parents of the vaccinated children.
Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they will write to the Congress and the Office of the President to allow them to use a chunk of the refund to support the needs of the families of the children who received Dengvaxia.
According to Duque, an estimated P600-million from the reimbursement will be requested, but said the exact amount will still be calculated.
As part of the assistance, parents of the children will also receive limited medical kits from the DOH. This was announced by Duque to reporters after meeting with at least 10 parents of the vaccinees.
The kits will contain insect repellant, mosquito net, soaps, fever medicines, thermometer, and a paper consisting the Health department’s hotlines to call for any medical emergencies.
The Health Secretary is asking for the parents’ patience as the department undergoes legal motions to procure and fund the medical kits.
“Ngunit ang ating pakiusap sa kanila, ito ay limitado pa, hindi pa natin kayang ibigay sa lahat dahil dadaan pa ito sa proseso ng procurement and bidding at kailangan ng pondo (But I appeal to them that the kits are still limited and we cannot provide it all as this will have to go through the process of procurement and bidding and needs to be funded),” Duque said.
Last month, Sanofi agreed to refund the government the cost of unused dengue vaccine, which the DOH demanded. The manufacturer said it will pay back P1.4-billion worth of the dengue vials.
But when the Philippines demanded a full refund worth P3.5-billion spent on its anti-dengue vaccines, Sanofi “respectfully declined” to pay it back, saying that “agreeing to refund the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case.”
The dengue vaccination program launched in April 2016 by former Health Secretary Janette Garin aims to provide free vaccines to public school students in places with high incidences of Dengue.
However, this program was called off after the pharmaceutical giant admitted that its vaccine could lead to severe dengue if administered to a person who had not been infected with the virus. Authorities also halted the sale of Dengvaxia.
At least 830,000 public school students In Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon had been vaccinated under the government’s immunization program.