ROUGH CUTS| Urgency for serious investigation

ONE issue that is now engulfing the country like a dreaded pandemic is the allegedly bungled dengue vaccination program of government launched during the last two years of the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

The anti-dengue vaccination program uses the Dengvaxia drug manufactured by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur. The vaccine was purchased by the Department of Health of the Aquino III government even if it was still at its testing stage and was not yet given the imprimatur of the World Health Organization (WHO). The cost of the vaccine was P3.5 billion. The amount, no doubt, is a substantial depletion from the government’s coffer.

The present volume of vaccine now stored at the DOH stockrooms is valued at P1.4 billion and is expected to expire by 2019 at the latest.

The controversy that leads to some kind of public panic was the recent announcement by the drugs company that the vaccine should be administered only to those who had been previously afflicted with dengue.

Unfortunately, some 733,000 public school children have been vaccinated already and so far there are no available records as to how many of them were already hit with dengue prior to the vaccination. In other words, the very late warning of Sanofi Pasteur that the vaccine is appropriate only to those who have had no previous dengue experience puts the lives of children who have not been afflicted with the disease in possible jeopardy.

Imagine the possibility that those who have not been sick with dengue getting even more serious complication because of the administration of Dengvaxia!

But why, in the first place, did it take the vaccine manufacturer three years to inform the Philippine health officials that it should only be administered to children previously sick with dengue? Withholding this information during the purchase negotiation is already clear aggravating circumstance to seek immediate legal action against the French drug manufacturing firm and those officials in the previous administration who recklessly decided to use the vaccine brand.

Meanwhile, we believe that there is a need for the Regional Office of the Department of Health in Southern Mindanao to categorically inform the public that no school children here have been administered the controversial Dengvaxia. This will appease parents who have signed waivers to vaccination activity conducted in some public schools.

In fact, we remember our own daughter signing a waiver on vaccination for her 12-year old son. Only we cannot remember what vaccine was that for.

Yes, we saw the DOH Region XI head making an announcement to that effect on local television news report. But we believe that it is far from substantial in order to reach the biggest number of city residents.

We, therefore, recommend that the DOH XI makes a formal announcement in the print media bearing the director’s signature facsimile. That would strengthen the credibility of the regional DOH’s claim that indeed the dengue vaccination program using the Dengvaxie has not been administered on school children of this region’s public schools as well as in private medical institutions.

And by the way, last Monday the Sanofi Pasteur officials in the Philippines held a press conference perhaps to cushion the impact of what the company announced. But even by claiming that the misadministration of the vaccine would not possibly result in death to those vaccinated, still, it should be made to answer to that clear negligence on its part. Why, because had the company made the warning during the DOH-Sanofi negotiation for the supply of the vaccine the time of the administration of the vaccine would have been done on the appropriate children beneficiaries.

The government, therefore, must proceed the soonest possible time before the panic would evolve into pandemonium among our Filipino parents. And the probers should ensure that none of the potentially responsible individuals both in government and the Sanofi-Philippines could not fly out of the country until they are made to answer for their omissions or they are cleared of any responsibility.

Posted in Opinion