Malacañang to Sanofi: You're not yet off the hook

MANILA, Philippines – Reacting to Sanofi Pasteur's refusal to fully refund the Philippine government for the Dengvaxia vials it purchased, Malacañang said there are many other ways to demand compensation from the French pharmaceutical giant if a government probe concludes it is liable.

"They must be dreaming if they think they're off the hook," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, February 5, during a Malacañang press briefing.

Warning Sanofi not to be overconfident, Roque cited an expected complaint from the administration-allied Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) that claims an election offense was committed in the approval of the government's Dengvaxia program and the accusation that Sanofi did not fully disclose side effects of the vaccine.

"They can be made to answer for many more things. If it is proven that they didn't disclose the side effects, they could be made to pay a large sum as compensation, even more than a full reimbursement," said Roque.

He appealed to the public, and even "some members of the government," to wait for the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

"The NBI has no final finding yet. Let's wait for that. No one is responsible, yet no one is off the hook at this stage. Dream on, Sanofi," said the spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Autopsies continue

Malacañang also said it is rejecting the appeal of the group Doctors for Public Welfare to stop conducting autopsies on the bodies of 14 children who supposedly died due to Dengvaxia.

"We are flatly rejecting the call to stop autopsies. We will perform autopsies as they are required because we need to find the truth," said Roque.

He made this announcement after consulting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who he is also set to meet before the Monday Cabinet meeting about the Dengvaxia controversy.

Asked if Malacañang thinks the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) should stop conducting the autopsies, Roque said the Palace is "not telling anyone to stop what they're doing."

Asked who should be conducting the autopsies, Roque said the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and the NBI are both qualified to do them.

He said Malacañang trusts government medico-legal experts to carry out an objective study into the controversy because "they have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the land."

There are two ongoing studies into the vaccine controversy: an analysis by UP-PGH of clinical records of 14 vaccinated children and exhumation and autopsies performed by PAO and the VACC on the bodies of 14 more children.

The studies are intended to determine if Dengvaxia had, in any way, influenced the children's deaths.

UP-PGH experts released their findings on February 2. Their assessment concluded that 3 of the children died from dengue even after being given Dengvaxia. In two of these cases, the children may have died because the vaccine did not work.

The DOH said it considers the UP-PGH findings as "primary evidence." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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