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An ill-conceived gov’t program

THE World Health Organization (WHO) is now investigating the case of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in the wake of findings that of 730,000 Filipino school children injected with the vaccine in 2016, “adverse effects” were reported in 997, 30 of which needed hospitalization, and four have died. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines has ordered a stop to the purchase of the vaccine and suspended the Department of Health’s anti-dengue inoculation program.

The French vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur issued a statement that its Dengvaxia is only for those who have had dengue in the past, that if given to previously uninfected people, it could cause “severe dengue.” It said it is now conducting a detailed analysis of the problem in coordination with the University of Pittsburgh. The WHO announced that it will conduct a “full review” by its experts before the year ends.

The object of all these official actions is a Philippine program launched in the closing months of the Aquino administration to inoculate some one million elementary school children all over the country. The program was initiated in three regions – Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and Calabarzon. It was here where the 997 got sick after inoculation with the vaccine and four died in Bulacan and Bataan.

The French vaccine maker will have to face the World Health Organization on its possible liability for releasing a vaccine for sale to the public, evidently without due warning on its limitations and possible dangers. It seems that it is only now that it is conducting a detailed analysis of the effects of its product – after selling it to the Philippines.

The Philippine officials responsible for acquiring the vaccine at a cost of P3.5 billion also have to answer some questions. Why was such a huge amount spent on a new product that had not been sufficiently tested and did not have any certification from the WHO and other international health organizations? How could these officials spend P3.5 billion through the process of bidding and procurement that normally takes months to carry out?

We await the research findings of the World Health Organization and of Sanofi itself; these will affect the future of a vaccine that seems to have been released without due assurance of its safety. More important to us are the lives of four school children which have been lost and the health of thousands of others who can now only wait to see if they will survive this ill-conceived government program.