DOJ indicts Garin, several others over Dengvaxia

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ indicts Garin, several others over Dengvaxia
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin is facing reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over deaths allegedly caused by controversial anti-Dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 4:27 p.m.) — The Department of Justice has indicted former Health Secretary Janette Garin and four others of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over deaths allegedly caused by controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

The following Department of Health officials and employees were also indicted for the same charge:

  • Dr. Vincente Belizario Jr.
  • Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go
  • Dr. Gerardo Bayugo
  • Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy
  • Dr. Irma Asuncion
  • Dr. Julius Lecciones
  • Dr. Maria Joyce Ducusin
  • Dr. Rosalind Vianzon
  • Dr. Mario Baquilod

The prosecution panel also indicted the following Sanofi Pasteur Inc. officials of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide:

  • Carlito Realuyo
  • Stanislas Camart
  • Jean Louis Grunwald
  • Jean Francois Vacherand
  • Conchita Santos
  • Jazel Anne Calvo

Also facing indictment are Maria Lourdes Santiago and Melody Zamudio from the Food and Drug Administration, and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine’s Dr. Socorro Lupisan and Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding.

The DOJ however dismissed the criminal complaints against Health Secretary Francisco Duque for insufficiency of evidence.

Alleged irregularities in Dengvaxia purchase

The 127-page resulted written by a panel led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilio Victorio has yet to be made public as of post.

The DOJ, however, released a statement on the indictment prepared by the office of Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, department spokesman.

The statement centered on the panel’s finding of irregularities in the purchase and in the Food and Drug Administration's registration of the vaccine pending completion of the clinical trials of Dengvaxia.

The panel said that the FDA approved the vaccine’s registration and purchase and rollout for even while the clinical trials were ongoing.

The state prosecutors also held that Garin and the other respondents were “careless in implementing the mass immunization program.”

There were barangay health workers who were not authorized to administer the vaccine, and some parents alleged that their children did not undergo physical examination or asked relevant health information.

“The panel meanwhile faulted Sanofi for failing to actively monitor and conduct close surveillance of Dengvaxia recipients,” the statement further read.

Indictment for reckless imprudence

The DOJ also explained that the panel arrived at the indictment for reckless imprudence, which is “a crime of neglect [that] punishes those who ‘exhibit ‘dangerous recklessness, the lack of care or foresight.’”

They held that Garin and the other Health officials who were also doctors “totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine.”

“Said risks materialized with the death of the victims,” the statement further read.

The DOJ did not identify the risks or adverse effects.

The DOJ’s statement did not touch on Garin's that there is no evidence that directly linking the deaths to Dengvaxia.

RELATED: UP-PGH panel: Only 3 of 14 Dengvaxia-linked deaths due to dengue | PAO chief Acosta cries ‘conflict of interest’ on Dengvaxia probe

DOJ cautions against fear of vaccination

The DOJ, amid the indictment on criminal charges over the controversial vaccine, however cautioned against those who would use the case development for fearmongering.

It stressed that the finding of neglect among the Health officials “should not, in any way, be used to stoke public fear of vaccination.”

The Justice department added that holding those who neglected their duties to the public “is the best deterrent against the repetition in the future of criminal neglect” that they allege the respondents showed.

Garin, for her part, also raised alarm over how the indictment might affect the perception against the DOH Immunization Progam.

EXPLAINER: How the Dengvaxia scare helped erode decades of public trust in vaccines

"People might think again that there is something wrong with the vaccine which is NOT TRUE. Let us put primary importance to saving lives rather than politicking," she said in a statement.

Duque suspended the dengue vaccination program after Sanofi disclosed in November 27, 2017 that it could cause severe dengue if given to those who had not previously been infected with dengue.

The Food and Drug Administration has permanently revoked the certificates of product registration for Dengvaxia.

2018 study of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine noted that the country’s “highly-politicized response” to the reported risks posed by Dengvaxia has eroded overall public trust in immunization.

Duque has also pinned the blame for "decline in vaccine confidence and a rise in cases of measles and other vaccine preventable diseases” on the remarks of Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta, who led the filing of the complaints. Acosta has disputed this, saying it is not her office's job to promote vaccination.

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