MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has created a task force that will address concerns related to the government’s controversial school-based dengue vaccine program.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque on Friday said the task force would conduct a thorough review of the program that started in 2016 and the recent analysis of Sanofi Pasteur on the Dengvaxia vaccine, the product used by the DOH in its vaccination drive.
The task force is composed of top officials of the DOH from the regional and central offices as well as officials from the Food and Drug Administration, Philhealth, and the National Children’s Hospital.
“This (task force) shall guide the Department of Health in responding to the safety concerns relevant to the use of these vaccines and how to proceed with the dengue program to ensure safeguards and prevent similar incidents in the future,” Duque said at a press briefing in Malacañang.
The DOH chief added that the task force would also have a legal team that would look into the accountability of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which developed the world’s only anti-dengue vaccine.
Duque noted that Sanofi had claimed that Dengvaxia was safe and effective for use but later acknowledged that the vaccine was not recommended for individuals with no prior dengue infection.
“This disclosure was made only after the Health Department had already vaccinated thousands of school children. And of course, the news, as you are all very much aware of, created a scare among our parents and the Filipino public,” he said.
The DOH also demanded a refund for the P3 billion paid by the government to Sanofi for the purchase of Dengvaxia in March 2016.
Duque said the refund that would be obtained from Sanofi would be used for an “indemnification fund” to cover hospitalization costs for vaccinated children who would be diagnosed with severe dengue.
“We will demand the refund of the three billion paid for…Dengvaxia…and set-up an indemnification fund to cover for the hospitalization and medical treatment for all children who might have severe dengue,” he said.
Philhealth is also ready to release up to P16,000 for every child who got vaccinated with Dengvaxia and hospitalized for severe dengue, according to Duque.
Also, the DOH chief said his office is currently updating the master list of children who were given Dengvaxia and heightening its surveillance and monitoring activities.
“We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring our children for any adverse even following immunization and will strengthen the readiness of our public hospitals in attending to any severe dengue cases that may occur,” Duque said.
He added that the DOH would be hiring 30 additional surveillance officers and assign them to hospitals in the regions where the dengue vaccines were administered, namely the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, CALABARZON and the Cebu province.