By Ben R. Rosario
An administration lawmaker yesterday called on the government to demand from Sanofi-Pasteur at least P2 billion in escrow fund that would be used to readily finance hospitalization needs of schoolchildren who had Dengvaxia shots but are afflicted with dengue.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. said the French pharmaceutical firm’s refund of P1.2 billion for the unused Dengvaxia vaccines is not enough for the firm to show it sincerely regrets the severe damage millions Filipinos face as a result of the anti-dengue controversy.
“There is no telling when an individual who was misled into getting Dengvaxia shots will have severe dengue. A number of cases of deaths and serious ailments have been recorded as a result of the ineffective vaccine,” said Teves, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs.
To help avert deaths and serious dengue illness, Sanofi-Pasteur should put a P2-billion fund to readily finance the hospitalization of persons sick of dengue despite receiving the Dengvaxia shots, he said.
However, Teves stressed that allocating the money should be done voluntarily by Sanofi-Pasteur to demonstrate to Filipinos that it is ready to help prevent the dengue threat.
“Such act should not be misconstrued by Sanofi-Pasteur as a measure that would settle its criminal and civil liability to Dengvaxia victims,” he clarified.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III had earlier announced that Sanofi-Pasteur, the French manufacturer of Dengvaxia, has refunded the government P1.2 billion for the unused anti-dengue vaccines.
Duque disclosed that the check for the amount that Sanofi-Pasteur has turned over will be sent to the national treasury, although he aired hopes that the money can be used to help victims of Dengvaxia.
An estimated 800,000 schoolchildren have received Dengvaxia shots as part of the anti-dengue program that was initiated by the Aquino administration in 2016.
Teves said Sanofi-Pasteur should shoulder the Dengvaxia hospitalizations, if it is intent at protecting its global reputation which has been tarnished by Dengvaxia.
Nevertheless, the lawmaker said he would strongly support Duque’s proposal if Sanofi-Pasteur will ignore his recommendation for the setting of a Dengvaxia escrow fund.
He also called on the Department of Justice to file criminal charges against former and incumbent government officials involved in the implementation of the program, particularly those behind its approval.