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Dengvaxia controversy: What did PNoy know?

The Department of Health continues to investigate the P3.5 billion-dengue immunization program known as the Dengvaxia controversy after the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur said new clinical analysis found its Dengvaxia vaccine effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization, but noted the risk of a "severe" case of dengue for people who hadn't. This controversy goes all the way to the top officials of the previous Aquino Regime, where no less than former president Benigno "PNoy" Aquino met with Sanofi officials, then the Department of Budget Management immediately released the funds for this.

There are people questioning what all the fuss is about when there has been no recorded death due to this immunization program. The Aquino officials should thank their lucky stars that this program did not result in any deaths, but that is not the issue. The issue is the fact that DOH under then secretary Janette Garin rushed the implementation of this program in April 2016 despite a report from experts raising an alarm against implementing this program because at that time, the studies for the vaccine's safety had not yet been completed.

Indeed, a Senate investigation is in order. Why did Garin rush this program when the study for this vaccine was not yet finished? Another question begging for an answer is whether or not PNoy knew at the time they procured this anti-dengue kit that the studies for this vaccine was not yet done? If he knew this information beforehand and still had this program implemented with uncanny speed then he should be held liable for allowing the Filipino people to become guinea pigs of Sanofi Pasteur! Madre mia!

To add to the drama, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered Sanofi Pasteur to suspend the sale and distribution and marketing of Dengvaxia and that all stocks of this vaccine be withdrawn from the local markets. Apparently this FDA order came only after the November 29 disclosure by Sanofi Pasteur of the problems that this vaccine posed to patients not previously infected by the dengue virus.

Meanwhile the DOH is looking into the possibility of getting a refund from Sanofi Pasteur following reports that the treatment poses risks to people without a history of dengue. The fact that Sanofi Pasteur itself admitted that the Dengvaxia vaccine had problems is more than enough for the DOH to demand a refund of the huge amount. If Sanofi Pasteur refuses then we should file a court case against this company! Meanwhile we await the Senate investigation on this issue because I'm sure that's when the juicy details of this issue would surface for all to see.

Meanwhile, I fully concur with the editorial written in this paper last Monday entitled: "The Philippines a costly Guinea Pig!" Let me get excerpts from that editorial for your appreciation:

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"When Dengvaxia, the first licensed dengue vaccine, was first introduced to the Philippine public by way of a massive immunization drive in three pilot areas last April, there was no word whatsoever from the Department of Health regarding any potential dangers the vaccine might pose to its target recipients -people aged nine to 45.

The DOH just plunged into it with the zealousness of someone brandishing a brand new discovery. By the time the second of an intended three-dose program that cost the government some P3 billion was finished by last October, nearly 800,000 of a targeted 1,000,000 recipients had been inoculated. It would seem at that point that the program was headed toward resounding success.

But then came confirmation from the Dengvaxia developer, the multinational giant Sanofi Pasteur, that the vaccine posed certain risks to recipients who have never been exposed to the dengue virus. More specifically, those who received the vaccine but have never been previously exposed to the virus run the risk of running more severe symptoms should they ever acquire the disease.

The DOH promptly suspended the program as soon as it heard the news."

What gets my gall is the last sentence of this editorial, which goes:

"The fact that only one other country, Brazil, dared acquire the new vaccine should have raised red flags all over. Have we just been made guinea pigs by big business?" Yes, PNoy's involvement in this is without any doubt!

vsbobita@mozcom.com.

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