By Ellson Quismorio
A House leader believes that President Rodrigo Duterte would use Monday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to send a “strong message” against public accountability in connection with the Dengvaxia mess.
“I think the President will send a strong message about anti-corruption and public accountability if he could refer to the Dengvaxia issue,” House Metro Manila development committee chairman Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Winston Castelo said.
Manufactured by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, Dengvaxia is an anti-dengue vaccine that has been connected to a growing number of deaths among an estimated 900,000 individuals administered with the drug.
The vaccine was the center of a mass inoculation campaign by the Aquino administration for over a year beginning in April 2016. The vast majority of the vaccinees were schoolchildren aged nine.
Castelo said Duterte can “call for full accounting of the funds and exacting accountability from everyone involved” in the P3-billion vaccination program.
“This should mean including demanding a full refund of the money that had been paid and rendered wasted,” added the veteran lawmaker, who is Duterte’s party mate over at Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
In November 2017, Sanofi admitted that Dengvaxia could be harmful to “seronegative” children, or those who have never contracted dengue but were given Dengvaxia shots anyway. The Duterte administration suspended the program as a result.
Earlier this month, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) filed charges against former Health Secretary Janette Garin as well as other officials from the Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Sanofi.
At least 65 of the vaccinees have died, the DOH said.
It should be noted that the French company has refused to give the Philippine government a full refund of the purchased Dengvaxia. So far, it only refunded P1.16 billion to cover for the unused Denvaxia vials, while the used vials of the faulty drug have not been accounted for.
In May, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading a proposed supplemental budget for 2018 that would use the partial P1.16-billion refund as stand-by hospitalization and monitoring funds for the vaccinees. The Senate has yet to pass its version of the measure.
Monday’s SONA will be President Duterte’s third.