Garin, 19 others indicted over Dengvaxia
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 19 health officials and drug executives would face trial for the crime of neglect for the deaths of eight school children who were given the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine by the government.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Friday it had indicted Garin with eight counts of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide for what it said were procedural lapses in the implementation of the P3.5 billion mass dengue immunization program rolled out in the final months of the Aquino administration.
Also indicted were nine officials of the Department of Health (DOH), eight counts each; two officials of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), eight counts each; two officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), four counts each; and six executives of Sanofi Pasteur Inc., eight counts each.
The offense carries a prison term of up to six years.
The panel of six prosecutors did not indict them for torture, as asked by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) who assisted the parents of the school children in filing their complaints.
The PAO forensics team has attributed to the vaccine the deaths of Aejay Bautista, 11; Angelica Pestilos, 10; Lenard Baldonado, 10; Zandro Colite, 11; Abbie Hedia, 13; Jansyn Art Bataa, 13; Mark Axel Ebonia; and Alexander Jaime.
The DOJ dismissed the complaint for a ninth alleged victim, Reijazztine Justin Alimagno, due to insufficient evidence.
It also dismissed the complaint against incumbent Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former officer in charge Herminigildo Valle, two officers from Sanofi and all officers of distributor Zuellig Pharma Corp.
The PAO has so far filed 35 complaints for the deaths of 33 minors, a doctor and a police officer allegedly due to Dengvaxia.
Other prosecution panels are handling the other complaints.
‘Lack of precaution’
Quoting the decision of the prosecution panel, DOJ Undersecretary and spokesperson Markk Perete said Garin and the others were liable for “inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight” due to the undue haste in procuring Dengvaxia and administering mass inoculation in schools.
The panel said Garin et al. “totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine,” which led to the children’s deaths.
The prosecutors said clinical trials for the vaccine were supposed to be completed in 2017 and 2018, yet the FDA approved in 2016 the registration of Dengvaxia as a prescription drug to be administered only by doctors and nurses.
The inoculation was, however, done carelessly, said the prosecutors based on the complaints which alleged that barangay health workers were the ones who inoculated the children.
According to the parents, their children were neither examined nor asked information before the inoculation.
Executives of vaccine maker Sanofi were faulted for failing to monitor the recipients and not extending assistance when serious adverse reactions were reported.
Those to be charged are doctors Vicente Belizario Jr., Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Gerardo Bayugo, Lyndon Lee Suy, Irma Asuncion, Julius Lecciones, Maria Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon and Mario Baquilod of DOH;
Doctors Socorro Lupisan and Maria Rosario Capeding of RITM; Maria Lourdes Santiago and Melody Zamudio of FDA; and Carlito Realuyo, Stanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos and Jazel Anne Calvo of Sanofi.
In a statement to the media, Garin insisted that Dengvaxia was safe for use and blamed politicking behind the decision to file criminal charges.
Garin said the rest of the world was presently benefiting from the vaccine and that 20 countries including the United States, as well as the European Union, were recommending the use of Dengvaxia.
She also invoked the World Health Organization’s advisory that the vaccine does not cause deaths.—WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS
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