By Ellson Quismorio
Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel today pressed French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi S.A. to heed the request of the Department of Health (DOH) to put up a financial reserve for Filipino families because of its faulty anti-dengue vaccine.
“It is high time for Sanofi to comply with Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s request for an indemnity fund to pay for the treatment of Filipino students rendered sick after receiving Dengvaxia shots,” said Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability.
The Mindanao lawmaker made this remark ahead of his panel’s reopening of the House probe on the previous administration’s controversial 2015 purchase of some P3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines tomorrow.
It will take place amid the backdrop of mounting cases of Dengvaxia-related hospitalizations, and in extreme instances, deaths among Filipino children.
“This will be our first hearing since Sanofi released the negative findings of its long-term follow-up study which showed that children who never had dengue but who were given the shots had an increased risk of a severe case and hospitalization from the third year after immunization,” Pimentel said.
House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza filed the new resolution enabling the reopening of the inquiry.
Pimentel earlier warned that officials found liable for the botched purchase of Dengvaxia shots are bound to face graft charges for a transaction “that may be deemed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.”
The House leader said graft charges may be warranted against the officials involved even if they did not make any money from the transaction.
“Under the law, officials may be held accountable for corrupt and unlawful acts, such as entering into highly injurious purchase contracts, without any need to establish that they profited from the transaction,” Pimentel said.
Under the administration of then-president Benigno S. Aquino III and Health Secretary Janet Garin, the Philippines became the first country in the world to launch a public inoculation plan against dengue using Dengvaxia in April 2016.
The DOH has suspended the anti-dengue immunization drive after Sanofi conceded that Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for vaccinated children who contracted the disease for the first time.
More than 700,000 Filipino students have already received their Dengvaxia shots by the time the DOH suspended the immunization drive.
Without admitting any wrongdoings, Sanofi in January reimbursed the amount of P1.16 billion for the unused doses of Dengvaxia from the DOH.