DOJ indicts ex-DOH chief Garin, 9 others for Dengvaxia mess

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice has found probable cause to indict former health secretary Janette Garin and 9 other officials of the Department of Health for reckless imprudence resulting to homicide. 

In statement released on Friday, March 1, DOJ said that the preliminary investigations has found "sufficient evidence that Garin and other respondents circumvented various regulations in the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine which constituted proof of their reckless imprudence."

This is the first resolution among the different Dengvaxia cases filed. 

If found guilty, Garin and the other respondents indicted may face imprisonment of up to 6 years. 

JUST IN: DOJ indicts ex Health Sec Janette Garin for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the Dengvaxia vaccine. This is the first resolution on Dengvaxia cases. | via @lianbuan pic.twitter.com/n25DJq5s9Y — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) March 1, 2019

Other DOH officials indicted are:

During her tenure, Garin used of the Dengvaxia vaccine for the mass immunization program despite its not being included of the Philippine National Drug Formulary list as required under the law.

Aside from this, the investigation also found that the clinical trials were still ongoing when DOH had purchased and used the vaccine. Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration has revoked Dengvaxia's certificate of product registration.

"The Panel found that Sanofi submitted its application for the registration of Dengvaxia in January 2105. In December of that same year, FDA approved the marketing of Dengaxia and issued its product registration, well before the completion of the two clinical trials," DOJ said. 

The Panel of Prosecutors which conducted the investigation found that Garin and other DOH officials  showed neglect for disregarding the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine, leading to the deaths. (READ: A YEAR AFTER DENGVAXIA: Immunization drops, measles outbreaks soar)

This is despite DOH's claim that there is no connection between the deaths and those vaccinated with Dengvaxia. Just last month, the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) filed its 31st complaint against DOH after PAO linked the doctor's death to Dengvaxia. 

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) last February 2018 had also filed a graft case against Garin and other government officials, including former President Benigno Aquino III.

DOJ, however, clarified that this decision, should not "stoke public fear of vaccination."(READ: Kids’ vaccination rate down to 60% after Dengvaxia scare – DOH)

"Holding to account those who neglect to discharge their duties to the public with utmost caution and competence is the best deterrent agaisnt the repetition in the future of the criminal neglect exhibited by respondents herein," DOJ said. 

"It is likewise the best assurance that all government health programs – immunization drives included – will conform to the highest standards of safety and efficiacy." 

In a separate statement, DOH said that it will continue to focus on the recently-signed Universal Healthcare Law.

"We will wait for the official transmittal of the DOJ resolution. For now, let us continue to pave the way for UHC," its statement read. 

Aside from the Garin and other DOH officials, the DOJ will also indict respondents from the Food and Drug Administration, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and a number of employees of Sanofi Pasteur, Incorporated. 

"The Panel meanwhile faulted Sanofi for failing to actively monitor and conduct close surveillance of Dengvaxia recipients. It also found that Sanofi did not extend any medical assistance to the victims or their families even after reports of serious adverse reactions surfaced," the statement read. 

Meanwhile, the DOJ had dismissed its charges of reckless imprudence on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former Officer-in-Charge Hermenigildo Valle, two employees of the Sanofi Pasteur, and all officers and directors of the Zuellig Pharma Corporation. 

The complaint for violation of Anti-Torture Act or R.A. No. 9745 filed against Duque was also dropped. –Rappler.com