Drilon blames PAO ‘mishandling’ of Dengvaxia case for delay in arrival of COVID-19 vaccines

Published February 22, 2021, 5:14 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Public Attorneys Office’s (PAO) mishandling of the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine case contributed to the delays in the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Monday.

Senator Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Drilon pointed out that the requirement of vaccine manufacturers for an indemnification clause in the supply agreements for COVID-19 vaccines were borne out of the events that transpired in the Dengvaxia controversy.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez had earlier said manufacturers were seeking an indemnity agreement following news of arrest warrants being issued against Sanofi-Pasteur officials who were responsible in the inoculation of schoolchildren who suffered severe side effects after being vaccinated using the anti-dengue vaccine.

“Why, suddenly, the manufacturers required an indemnity clause? Because of their experience on the way the Dengvaxia controversy was handled against Sanofi,” Drilon pointed out during an ANC Headstart interview.

“It should be looked at in the context of the way PAO Chief Persida Acosta handled the Dengvaxia controversy,” Drilon added.

He noted the PAO chief’s handling of the case burdened the poor health workers who were made defendants in the cases filed all over the country.

But given this unfortunate experience, Drilon said it is only proper to include a provision in Senate Bill No. 2057 or the bill expediting the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines that would shield volunteers, like health workers, who are authorized to carry out the inoculation program, from suits and liabilities, except in cases of willful misconduct.

He clarified, however, that the free and harmless cause would apply only to vaccines validly procured, not to smuggled vaccines.

He also reiterated that the indemnity issue is not the only reason for the delay, citing the mismanagement in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.

“To me, this is not the only reason. I think just like the way COVID-19 pandemic was handled, there is mismanagement in handling the supply agreements,” he stressed. “Even the President asked: where are the vaccines? This is absolutely a sign of exasperation,” Drilon pointed out.