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PHL to eventually sue Sanofi Pasteur over dengue vaccine scare —Duque

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 5 days ago Galarpe, Karen
Dengvaxia dengue vaccine © Sandra Aguinaldo Dengvaxia dengue vaccine

The Philippine government will eventually sue French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur over the dengue vaccine that was recently revealed to pose more risk than safety in some cases, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque II on Thursday.

This would be on top of the indemnity fund he is considering asking the pharmaceutical firm to set up in order to cover the hospitalization expenses of children who might end up needing medical treatment because of the vaccine, he said.

"Eventually that’s where it’s gonna go, because eventually it’s the court of law that’s gonna decide insofar as the liability of Sanofi is concerned," he said in an interview with ANC when asked if the government will bring the firm to court.

Duque has earlier said he is mulling asking Sanofi for a refund of the P3.5 billion the government spent on the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. However, during Thursday's interview, he mentioned only the vaccines worth P1.4 billion that have not yet been used.

Sanofi will be held liable, he said, if found that they deliberately failed to disclose information on the vaccine.

"...If it's found out that they withheld material information that would have changed the outcome of these problems and the decision-makers of the Department of Health in the previous administration, then they're liable," he said.

The two-time Health chief said he is looking at the issue "step-wise," adding that he will first talk to Sanofi, demand a refund of the taxpayers' money spent on the controversial vaccine, then ask the firm to set up an indemnity fund.

"It's a fund they have to establish so that...the cost of hospitalization of these children now and in the future, we will get it from these indemnity funds," he said.

A student in Bataan was reported to have died of severe dengue months after receiving a shot of Dengvaxia, while another student from Tarlac was said to have contracted a likewise severe infection after receiving three shots of the dengue vaccine, the world's first.

Duque also welcomed the congressional probes into the Dengvaxia vaccine and the deal that was supposed to protect from dengue hundreds of thousands of school children aged nine and up—he said records state around 850,000 kids were immunized, contrary to the initial figure of 733,000.

The investigation, set for next week, "will be able to produce the necessary pieces of evidence," Duque said.

He has earlier vowed that the DOH will cooperate in any investigation on the matter.

At least two groups of lawmakers at the House have sought investigations into the dengue vaccine.

This is on top of the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe that started late last year, and still separate from the one that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to mount.

The DOH's dengue vaccination program has been suspended pending recommendation from experts from the World Health Organization.

Sanofi Pasteur last week announced that the dengue vaccine they manufactured has been found to pose a risk of "severe" dengue if administered to people who have not had dengue before, alarming parents and fueling a national conversation on accountability and the government's overall immunization program. —Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/KG, GMA News

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