Dengvaxia controversy casts shadow over COVID-19 vaccine procurement
MANILA, Philippines — Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday emphasized the need for an indemnity law governing the procurement of coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX pool, citing the misgivings of vaccine manufacturers arising from the Dengvaxia controversy.
In 2017, the Department of Health (DOH) suspended a massive dengue immunization program after French pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi Pasteur, belatedly announced that its vaccine, Dengvaxia, could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.
“‘Yun [indemnity agreement] ang hinihingi ng ating mga manufacturer kasi nakita natin na napakalaki ng takot ng mga manufacturer sa Dengvaxia na nakita natin na ‘yung Sanofi ay hinabla,” Galvez said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
(The vaccine manufacturers are seeking an indemnity agreement because they are frightened of what happened with Dengvaxia where Sanofi was stopped.)
Galvez said the proposed indemnity law should cover an agreement on indemnity to be given to both parties — the vaccine manufacturers, and those who will suffer from severe side effects from COVID-19 vaccination.
It will also give protection to DOH personnel and drugmakers from possible lawsuits.
Galvez said Pfizer-BioNTech has sought an indemnity agreement with the Philippines for its Covid-19 vaccine doses expected to arrive this month in the country through the COVAX facility, which is managed by the World Health Organization.
“‘Yung Pfizer, they just want the assurance because of the reason na nalaman nila na nagkaroon ng kahablahan dito sa Dengvaxia,” he said.
He added that the Philippine government had to explain to the firm that such an incident will not happen again.
“‘Yun ang ina-assure namin sa kanila na talagang ‘yung sitwasyon ngayon ay iba, considering also na ngayon ay may pandemic, may emergency situation po tayo at ang gobyerno ay nagga-guarantee na tayo ang [mag-shoulder] ng responsibility just in case mayroon tayong tinatawag na severe adverse effect,” he said.
The Philippines has signed and submitted to the COVAX facility the indemnity agreement for the expected Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid-19 jabs.
Earlier, Galvez said there will be a one week delay on the arrival of vaccines coming from the COVAX facility. However, government is ironing out the indemnity agreement for the supply in order to assure that the government will assume responsibility should vaccine recipients experience adverse side effects.
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