February 26, 2018, 3:35 am
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Severe dengue fears allayed

GOVERNMENT and pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur yesterday allayed fears of a rise in severe dengue cases and possible death, after more than 730,000 children aged 9 and above were injected in 2016 with the Dengvaxia vaccine. 

This developed as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II   ordered yesterday the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the danger of the vaccine to public health and if there is any possible criminal liability.

Aguirre said the probe will cover officials of the previous administration, including former president Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who gave the go-signal to proceed with the project.

Also expected to be investigated is former Health secretary Janette Garin.

“Everybody who was involved will be included in the NBI investigation,” the DOJ chief said in a text message.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Department of Health (DOH) spokesman Lyndon See-Uy, during a briefing in Malacañang, assured that government is closely monitoring those who have been administered the dengue vaccine.

See-Uy said government does not expect vaccine beneficiaries to manifest any side effect to Dengvaxia in the next two and half years to five years, which is the vaccine’s “protective period.”

“People should not panic about the dengue vaccine. There is no danger with the dengue vaccine,” Roque said.

He cited a recent study by Sanofi, which manufactured the vaccine, that nine out of 10 or 90 percent of those who had dengue and had been administered the vaccine are protected against another attack, while the remaining 10 percent, especially if they have not had dengue, stand the chance of being afflicted with a “severe dengue case.”

“Chances are after three years, he may still be afflicted with dengue which was classified as severe dengue….The ‘severe dengue’ that is mentioned by Sanofi will involve symptoms that include two days of fever and hemophilia, iyong pagmamarka sa skin. It is not the deadly type of dengue,” he added.

See-Uy said based on the Sanofi research and monitoring, none of those who had the vaccine and had been afflicted with “severe dengue” died.

He said the patients with severe dengue cases were able to receive treatment that included hospitalization for about four to six days.

The Department of Health (DOH) commitment was to monitor the children who received the vaccine for the next five years.

In 2016, the DOH, in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), launched the dengue vaccination initiative in Regions III, IV-A and National Capital Region—the three highly endemic regions.

On reports that a least three children from Luzon who allegedly received the vaccine from DOH died, Roque said the Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting an investigation on the program. 

“Do not panic. If there are data that would show that there is reason for the public to be alerted, President Duterte will announce it. We will not hide anything from the public,” he said.

See-Uy said the vaccination program has been suspended and the DOH is waiting for the results of a meeting of the WHO and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization in Geneva.

“Hopefully, within the next two weeks they can have a recommendation on what our next step forward would be,” he said.

See-Uy said the DOH is prepared to face any class suit, assuring everyone that there were no irregularities in the adoption and implementation of the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine program.

Garin said she welcomed the investigation.

“In the event that there will be authorities who will point culpability to me, I am ready to face the consequences,” she told ANC TV. “We implemented it in accordance with WHO guidance and recommendations.”

There was no indication that health officials knew of any risks when they administered the vaccination.

However, the WHO, in a July 2016 paper, said “vaccination may be ineffective of may theoretically even increase the future risk of hospitalized or severe dengue illness in those who are seronegative at the time of first vaccination regardless of age.”

According to Sanofi in Manila, 19 licenses were granted for Dengvaxia, and it was launched in 11 countries, only two of which – the Philippines and Brazil – had public programs to administer the vaccine.
 
SANOFI MONITORING

Sanofi Pasteur medical director Ruby Dizon said in a press briefing that the company is working with the DOH to make sure monitoring is maintained.

Dizon clarified that Dengvaxia cannot make people ill with severe dengue.

Sanofi global medical head Dr. Ng Su Peing said she would still not recommend Dengvaxia for those who have not been infected with the dengue virus since the vaccine will increase the risk of hospitalization, if infected.

Sanofi Pasteur regional director Dr. Joselito Sta. Ana belied claims that Filipinos, mostly school children, were used as “guinea pigs” for the dengue vaccine.

Sta. Ana said the DOH program “is a public health program and not a clinical trial, so Filipinos were not used as guinea pigs.” 

He noted that nine out of 10 Filipinos, aged nine to 14 years old, have been exposed to dengue virus by the time they reach adolescence.

However, he said about 75 percent were not aware since they do not experience symptoms.

Sta. Ana classified fever for two days, lower platelet count, and bruising as among the symptoms of severe dengue.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said it was checking a report that three children in Central Luzon had died since being vaccinated in April 2016 and described the situation as a disaster.

VACC chairman Dante Jimenez said the names are being verified, and that “if ever, they have already been buried... we’re asking the NBI to conduct an exhumation. This is really serious.”

VACC counsel Ferdinand Topacio said he met with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and was promised the DOH’s full cooperation in any investigation.

“Practically, this is genocide, intended or unintended, and people have to be responsible for this disaster,” Topacio said.

Aguirre urged parents of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia to come forward and help in the investigation if their children showed adverse effects. – Angela Lopez de Leon, Ashzel Hachero and Reuters
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