WATCH: Duque talks to parents of kids vaccinated with Dengvaxia

MANILA, Philippnes - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III continues his tour of schools where kids received the risky Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.

In a visit to Santa Rosa Central Elementary School, Duque says the now-suspended dengue immunization program was launched even if the clinical trial on its safety has not been completed.

Mara Cepeda reports. - Rappler.com

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has worrisome news for parents of children vaccinated with the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.

Duque says the clinical trial on the safety of Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia was not completed when the vaccination program was launched by ex-DOH chief Janette Garin.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine studied the vaccine’s efficacy in 2011 to 2014, while its safety study was conducted in 2011 to 2017.

But Garin approved Dengvaxia’s use in public schools in 3 regions in April 2016.

FRANCISCO DUQUE III, HEALTH SECRETARY: They started giving the Dengvaxia as early as 2016, March. So the findings on the severe dengue after they concluded the phase 3 on September of 2017. So if they had waited [for] 2017, then they would have known they cannot give these Dengvaxia to children who never had dengue in the past, because that is exactly what the advisory of Sanofi says.

Sanofi last November announced individuals who received the vaccine but were not previously infected by the virus may develop severe dengue.

The DOH chief is now touring schools to directly answer questions from the vaccinated children's concerned parents.

Rubireza Catindig says her 11-year-old child occasionally gets the chills.

Her child also complains of pain in the eyes and stomach after getting two out of 3 Dengvaxia doses.

Were these caused by the vaccine?

RUBIREZA CATINDIG, MOTHER OF CHILD VACCINATED WITH DENGVAXIA: I can't say they're because of Dengvaxia. But he doesn't experience those before. Those symptoms didn't come out prior to his vaccinization. After the 2nd vaccine, that's the time his immune system weakened.

But Duque says the the DOH and experts from the Philippine General Hospital are still studying whether or not Dengvaxia causes children to develop other symptoms or worse, death due to dengue.

FRANCISCO DUQUE III, HEALTH SECRETARY: We cannot really say for sure wether the reactions that are being observed by the parents can be classified as the reactions that are directly related to Dengvaxia. But just to make sure that we cover all grounds, we will report them as part of the surveillance system and classify them as possible adverse events following immunizations beginning March 2016.

For now, DOH is closely monitoring the health of the vaccinated children, whose medical and hospital expenses due to dengue will be covered by PhilHealth.

Parents welcome the chance to talk to the DOH chief himself.

But it remains to be seen if the DOH can consistently address their concerns and keep their vaccinated children safe in the long run.

Mara Cepeda, Rappler, Laguna