Congressman demands apology from Sanofi – not for injecting kids, but for advisory that caused alarm

December 13, 2017 - 5:44 PM
Sanofi Pasteur Asia-Pacific head Thomas Triomphe (3rd from left) fields questions during the joint hearing on Dengvaxia conducted by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and the Committee on Health on Wednesday. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

MANILA – SAGIP Partylist Representative Rodante Marcoleta has demanded an apology from Sanofi Pasteur, not for injecting Filipino children with its dengue vaccine, but for issuing a “reckless” and “tactless” advisory that has caused alarm.

On Wednesday, during the joint hearing on Dengvaxia conducted by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and the Committee on Health, Marcoleta asked Sanofi Pasteur Asia-Pacific head Thomas Triomphe to deliver the statement that the drug manufacturer issued on November 29 containing its latest findings.

In its advisory, Sanofi Pasteur said a review of clinical studies showed that while the vaccine is effective in preventing future infections of dengue in those who were previously stricken with it before immunization, Dengvaxia posed risk of “serious disease” – or more virulent dengue strain infections – among the so-called zero-negative class, or people who never had infections prior to being injected with the vaccine.

Triomphe told Marcoleta that the statement was publicly available, and said he can explain it.

Marcoleta then said that the explanation could wait until later, and asked him if he could re-state the statement.

Apparently puzzled by his peer’s request, Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chairman Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Ty Pimentel piped in: “You want it to be read again?”

Hindi ko po alam exactly kung ano ‘yung statement, Mr. Chair (I don’t know what the statement is exactly, Mr. Chair),” answered Marcoleta.

So Pimentel asked the committee secretary to give Marcoleta a copy of the statement, to which the latter responded by saying, “Why can’t just the Sanofi representative state it for the record?”

Pimentel pointed out that he already had a copy of it, and Marcoleta replied that he could not read it.

Pimentel ended up requesting Committee on Health chairperson Quezon 4th District Representative Angelina Tan to read a portion of the statement which he said was “made public” by Sanofi Pasteur.

And so Tan read that portion, which said that based on up to six years of clinical data, it was found that Dengvaxia vaccinees who had not had dengue prior to immunization could have more severe dengue once they do get an infection. Meaning, the vaccine was good in preventing subsequent infections for those who had been stricken with dengue earlier, but was risky for those who never had it.

An angry Marcoleta confronted Triomphe: “Did it occur to you that such kind of a statement or advisory have caused sleepless nights, emotional distress and other similar emotional insecurities to our people? Did you realize that it could publicly alarm people?”

Triomphe said he understood, which was why he was in the hearing to clarify it.

“But the damage is already done,” Marcoleta said. “You are so reckless in your statement. You’re very indifferent. You’re so inconsiderate as if you can casually play on the lives of our people.”

Triomphe said it was not the case, and in fact, when they have new findings, they immediately communicate them with the authorities.

Marcoleta responded by saying it was an irresponsible statement, after which Triomphe said he understood the concern of the parents.

“You fully understand, but are you sorry that you made that statement?” Marcoleta demanded to know.

Triomphe answered that this was the reason why he wanted to clarify the matter.

“But you are not sorry with the statement. Are you sorry with what you said?” Marcoleta said.

Triomphe finally said that he was sorry for the confusion, and again said that he was there to clarify the matter. He then asked if Marcoleta wanted him to clarify the matter now.

Marcoleta replied that he wanted Triomphe to say sorry. He said he wanted a “profuse” apology.

“Please be considerate in your statements, be sensitive,” Marcoleta said.

“I do apologize indeed if there was misunderstanding in this communication,” Triomphe replied.

Marcoleta then defined the word “tact” for him, saying it was about doing something without offending other people.