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DENGVAXIA CONTROVERSY

Gordon blames Aquino administration for giving vaccination ‘a bad name’

Dengvaxia vials

This photo, taken on April 4, 2016, shows a nurse showing vials of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, developed by French medical giant Sanofi Pasteur, during a vaccination program at an elementary school in Metro Manila. The Philippines said on Dec. 1, 2017 it had suspended use of the landmark vaccine for the potentially deadly dengue virus after its manufacturer warned it could worsen the disease in some cases. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)

Sen. Richard Gordon said on Sunday the controversy over the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine had given vaccination “a bad name,” and it was because the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III had failed to do its job.

Immunizing people against diseases was not bad, he said.

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But he noted that Dengvaxia, which its manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said could worsen symptoms in vaccinated people who had no previous exposure to the dengue virus had not been tested when the Aquino administration approved its use for children and adults in 2016.

What now?

Gordon said he would ask on Monday, when his Senate blue ribbon committee opens an inquiry into the controversy, what the Department of Health (DOH) intended to do for those who might get severe dengue.

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The DOH had vaccinated more than 700,000 schoolchildren before the immunization program was halted on Dec. 1. Tthe government said 10 percent, or 70,000, were at risk of worse symptoms if they should eventually got dengue.

The Duterte administration, on the other hand, had vaccinated 158,000 people.

Gordon said his committee had invited former Health Secretary Janette Garin, during whose watch the immunization program was launched, to Monday’s hearing. But her lawyer informed the panel that Garin’s father had died and she might not be able to attend.

But he said he hoped she would be able to attend.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for Garin said she had been confined in a private hospital in Tacloban City with accute appendicitis.

Also invited to the inquiry are parents of vaccinated schoolchildren.

Aquino may be summoned

Gordon said the committee might end up inviting Aquino because of his meetings with offiicials of Sanofi Pasteur, including a low-level one, in 2015.

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He said the timeline of the negotiations for the vaccine up to its purchase through the immediate release of P3.5 billion showed there were “strong signs of a conspiracy to buy” the vaccine.

Gordon also said the approval of the use of the vaccine was made without first being approved for the national formulary, or the list of medicines that the goverment purchases.

He said former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial should also testify to explain why the DOH continued to implement the immunization program after initially canceling it.

Ubial should tell who had directed her to proceed with the program, Gordon said, noting that she was quiet on the subject before because her nomination was pending on the Commission on Appointments.

/atm

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Dengue Vaccine, Denguevaxia, Department of Health, DoH, Janette Garin, Noynoy Aquino, Paulyn Ubial, Richard Gordon, Sanofi Pasteur
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