VACC alleges 'widespread coverup' of dengue vaccine anomalies

MANILA, Philippines – The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said on Monday, December 4, they would soon present a witness who has “access to official documents” that would expose anomalies in the procurement of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia by the Department of Health (DOH).

VACC counsel Ferdinand Topacio said that there were anomalies in the “pricing, methodology of procurement, and the administering of the vaccine.”

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II signed on Monday the department order authorizing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the alleged “anomaly in the P3.5 billion anti-dengue vaccination campaign” of the DOH and pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur.

JUST IN. Secretary Aguirre signs the DOJ order authorizing NBI to probe into the the Dengvaxia controversy || via @lianbuan pic.twitter.com/B8q1WclIHp — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) December 4, 2017

Coming from a press conference at the DOJ and a meeting with the NBI Monday morning, Topacio told Rappler that the witness had named the officials of the former administration, as well as some who are still at the DOH:

Among the accusations of the witness, according to Topacio, are the irregularity with a December 2015 Special Allotment Release Order or SARO and the selection process of who would get the vaccine.

“Selection of the regions were based on the number of voters and not on the endemicity of the disease,” Topacio said.

He said the witness is suggesting the government investigates why the DOH’s vaccination program was supply-driven and not demand-driven.

“There is a widespread coverup by senior DOH officials,” Topacio said, quoting the witness.

'Misinformation' 

Topacio also cited a social media post alleging that the Philippines overpriced Dengvaxia, comparing it to its supposed much lower retail price in India.

But Dengvaxia is not sold in India, according to Sanofi Pasteur Philippine medical director Ruby Dizon.

Told of this fact, Topacio said that’s why the NBI would verify.

The VACC also said in the press conference that 3 children in Central Luzon had died from the vaccination.

Sanofi said it was misinformation.

“All adverse events are reported to the DOH and is assessed independently by the National Adverse Event Following Immunization Committee. All events as of today that we know of are not related to dengue vaccination,” Dizon said.

Again, Topacio said they would leave it up to the NBI to verify. 

In a press conference on Monday, Sanofi clarified that Dengvaxia "does not contain viruses that can make people ill with dengue or severe dengue.”

They explained that based on their clinical data, there is risk of dengue before and after getting the vaccine. However, when a person gets the vaccine after he has had an infection, the effectivity of the vaccine increases by up to 6 years. Dengvaxia increases the risk of contracting severe dengue for those who got the vaccine without prior infection.

Sanofi's press conference followed a warning by health advocates that Dengvaxia poses more risk for people who have no prior infection.

More than 700,000 children all over the country got the vaccination since the program was implemented by Garin, and continued by Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial under the Duterte administration until it was temporarily stopped in May 2017.

Topacio said they are eyeing to file a class suit for damages for the “mental torture” that this controversy has put parents through. Graft and plunder complaints against officials are also possible, Topacio said. Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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