Two weeks after alarms were raised against the dengue vaccine, a mom gives voice to the fear of Filipino parents whose children were given the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
“Gusto ko pong maiparating po sa lahat ng kinauukulan ang nararamdaman ko bilang ina. Ang takot na nararamdaman ko, ang kaba at lahat. Ang mga gabi na halos hindi ako makatulog,” said Iris Alpay of Imus, Cavite, according to an ABS-CBN News report.
“Gusto ko talagang sabihin ito sa mga taong behind this vaccine, especially former secretary Garin, gusto ko lang rin pong tanungin sa kanya kung nakakatulog pa siya ng mahimbing, kasi kami po ay hindi na,” she added.
Dr. Janette Garin was the Department of Health (DOH) secretary when the P3.5 billion national dengue immunization program was launched. Dengvaxia was already administered to 830,000 school children when it was halted after Sanofi Pasteur, the French pharmaceutical company and manufacturer of Dengvaxia, reported the dengue vaccine was found to heighten the risk of severe dengue in those who have never had the mosquito-borne illness last November 29.
During the hearing, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a former consultant of the DOH, Dr. Francis Cruz, told the Senate about a “widespread cover-up” involving the government's acquisition of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
However, Philippine Star reported that Dr. Garin denied “any wrongdoing and corruption in the immunization program.” On the question of funding, she said the vaccines were bought by the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, not by the DOH. She also clarified that the program was financed under the miscellaneous personnel fund and not the 2016 national budget.
She left the hearing early to reportedly undergo an appendectomy as she was diagnosed with acute appendicitis three days prior.
On Friday, Dec. 8, current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed that a child who received the Dengvaxia vaccine later fell ill with a severe case of dengue.
In a press conference held in Malacañang, Duque disclosed that the student is a 12-year-old girl from Tarlac. She was initially admitted to a private hospital where “she was diagnosed to have a positive dengue virus using the antigen NS1 and positive for IGM, the antibody present normally against dengue virus,” Rappler reported.
She was then transferred to JB Lingad Hospital, which is managed by the DOH, where she was able to recover from her illness.
The student’s symptoms included a low blood pressure of “about 64 over 40” and a platelet count of 24,000 where the normal count is around 250,000 to 450,000, added Duque. “So that was the diagnosis – severe dengue with hypotension and bradycardia, means slowing of the heart rate.”
The DOH is also looking into another case in Cebu but details are yet to be released.
Meanwhile, the minutes of a meeting of the expert panel tasked to review the dengue immunization's program safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness was released by Rappler. Information from the meeting may “indicate that then-DOH chief Janette Garin had decided to forego the FEC’s recommendations when she launched the school-based dengue vaccination program,” Rappler said.
Called the Formulary Executive Council (FEC), the minutes of their meeting held in January 2016, stated, “Since the safety and efficacy of the vaccine are not yet well-established, the Council suggested a small scale pilot testing of the vaccine through phased implementation rather than vaccinating the target children in the 3 regions all at once.”
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Sunday, Decembered. 10 issued a memorandum that ordered schools in Regions III, IV-A, and NCR to closely monitor students who were given the dengue vaccine, regardless of the number of doses.
Schools in other regions who did not implement the school-based dengue immunization program are likewise advised to assess students ages 9 and older who might have been given the vaccine via private practitioners in the area or the community-based vaccination.
Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi's head of Asia-Pacific, said in his opening statement during the hearing, which was provided to SmartParenting.com.ph, that the dengue vaccine continues to be “safe and efficacious.” He added that “all other countries where Dengvaxia is marketed and used continue to use and market it to this very day.”
According to Interaksyon, Dengvaxia was launched in 11 countries, with the Philippine and Brazil being the only two countries to include the vaccine in public health programs.