WHO experts arriving to help DOH address vaccine mess

Published February 21, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce and Mario B. Casayuran

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are coming to the Philippines next month to help the Department of Health (DOH) addressthe problems caused by the Sanofi-Pasteur manufactured Dengvaxia vaccine.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said WHO has already identified several experts from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, United States, and United Kingdom and are just finalizing the rates of the consultants.

“The schedule of WHO for this mission to happen would be about the middle of March. WHO will be paying for all of it,” Domingo added.

“I think they are targeting five to seven experts composed of epidemiologists, dengue experts, infectious disease, pathologists, and other specialists,” the official said. .

Earlier, the DOH said it will form a panel with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) again, as well as with the WHO, to continue monitoring the effects of the dengue vaccine and to probe future adverse effects.

Domingo said the WHO experts will only be in the country during the initial stages of the program.

“What we really want is to set up a system. This will enable a local team to be able to continue doing the analysis and evaluation of cases in the years to come…. They (foreign experts) will be brought in just to boost our capacity,” Domingo stressed.

After 830,000 students were given Dengvaxia shots, Sanofi Pasteur announced its “new finding” in November 29, 2017 which “confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection… For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection.”

Focus on issues, accountabilities

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee yesterday asked the public to focus on the real issues and the accountabilities of the personalities who pushed for the procurement of the dengue vaccine and used it while it was still in its clinical trial stage.

Gordon said the public should not be swayed by public Relations (PR) tactics employed by Sanofi Pasteur of provoking arguments between doctors and government agencies to sway attention from their own liability.

The Gordon committee hearing resumes its public inquiry on the Dengvaxia controversy this afternoon.

“Focus on the criminals who made Dengvaxia happen here, criminals in procurement, those who are conflicted. The fight is against the criminals,” Gordon said, who reportedly engaged in mass vaccination when it was not ready yet.

“They stampeded everybody to approve it,” he added.

“This big corporation (Sanofi Pasteur) has so much money that they can manipulate issues. They managed to flip it so doctors fight against doctors, agency against agency. Sanofi’s PR people have managed to make it a fight between doctors. That is not the fight we are talking about. I caution everybody to focus on the investigation and punish the right people,” he added.

Gordon assured that while his committee remains four-square in seeking accountability from top to bottom, the health of the people, mostly children, who were administered with the vaccine is still paramount.

“Cases should be filed against officials who, in manipulating the procurement and rollout of the vaccine, may have violated laws and rules,” he said.

“This Dengvaxia controversy has caused parents panic, serious anxiety and mental anguish, even sleepless nights. The issue has put a bad name to vaccination, triggering a vaccine scare. The DOH should allay this fear and restore public trust and confidence in the government’s public health programs,”Gordon added.