Gordon says DOH 'liable' over Dengvaxia mess

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon berated former and current officials of the Department of Health (DOH) for the implementation of the now-suspended dengue vaccination program.

The Senate blue ribbon committee chairperson said the Philippine government is “liable” for administering the Dengvaxia vaccine to more than 837,000 Filipino gradeschoolers in 3 regions.

“The government is liable here. Kayo nagtulak eh! (You’re the one who pushed for it!)… You are liable. We are liable. And the taxpayers have become liable. And if you want to save on cost, do it now before someone exploits them,” said Gordon as his committee as well as the Senate health and finance panels resumed their probe on Wednesday, February 21.

Gordon made the case why DOH should be held liable over the Dengvaxia mess, which is now causing parents to stop availing of other vaccination programs for their kids.

The senator first flashed a copy of the consent form given to parents of the vaccinees when ex-DOH chief Janette Garin implemented the program starting April 2016.

The form asks parents to specify if their child is pregnant, taking corticosteriods, undergone blood transfusion in the last 3 months, or going through chemotherapy.

He then asked Garin, her successor Paulyn Ubial, and current DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III if the information provided by the consent form is complete.

Ubial answered: “Yes sir. That was the standard consent form.”

But Gordon then asked 4 parents of vaccinees present during the hearing if they were asked if their child is suffering from any allergies.

He also asked them if the consent form informed them of Dengvaxia maker Sanofi Pasteur’s warning its product may lead a person to develop severe dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior immunization.

Hindi po (No),” said the parents in unison. They also said some other children were vaccinated without parent's consent.

The consent form, however, cannot contain the information on the risks of the vaccine because Sanofi only announced it less than two years after the program was launched.

Duque suspended the vaccination program on December 1, 2017, two days after Sanofi released the warning against its own vaccine.

Treatment of rich, poor different?

During the hearing, Gordon also pointed out that patients who had wanted to purchase Dengvaxia commercially were first required to present a doctor’s prescription.

In contrast, Gordon said poor Filipinos ended up being subjected to the mass vaccination in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.

Kung kailangan ng prescription ng mayaman [para] bibigyan ng Dengvaxia, bakit sa DOH papayagan niyo [na walang prescription sa mahihirap]? Bakit niyo bibigyan ng mass immunization na salat sa pagbibigay ng warning sa mga magulang?” asked Gordon.

(If the rich need a prescription so they can be given Dengvaxia, why would the DOH allow the poor to get the vaccine without prescription? Why subject them to a mass immunization that lacks the proper warning for parents?)

Anong klaseng science yan? Anong klaseng administration ng public health ‘yan?” he added.

(What kind of science is that? What kind of administration of public health is that?)

None of the health officials present replied to Gordon.

For now, the DOH under Duque is on a heightened surveillance of the health of all vaccinated children. 

DOH is also set to file a civil case against Sanofi for refusing the Philippine government’s refund for a full refund of the P3 billion it spent to purchase the Dengvaxia vials.

Meanwhile, Garin, former president Benigno Aquino III, former budget chief Florencio Abad, former and current DOH officials, as well as executives of Sanofi and its distributor Zuellig Pharma are now facing a number of complaints before the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Elections. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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