Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Monday to investigate the P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH) that put the lives of more than 733,000 public school children at risk.
Aguirre issued Department Order No. 763, tasking the NBI to investigate and build a case against those responsible for supposedly placing public health in danger.
The dengue vaccination program began during the term of then-Health Secretary Janette Garin in April 2016.
"Tama ba ang pag-order kaagad ng ganito karaming vaccine na worth P3.5 billion? Na naturukan agad ang 733,000 children, tama ba ito, kahit apat buwan pa lang nama-manufacture ito?" Aguirre said in a press conference.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe and build cases, if warranted, in connection with the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the Department of Health. @gmanews pic.twitter.com/dWBU3GVWpQ— Virgil Lopez (@virgillopez) December 4, 2017
The NBI will determine whether Sanofi has communicated with the DOH the proper warning that the vaccine should not be given to somebody who has not contracted dengue before.
At a press conference, Sanofi said it will cooperate with the NBI on its probe.
"In line with that, well of course kami naman is a very responsible company, transparent kami," Ching Santos, Sanofi Pasteur's general manager said.
"If we will be invited, kung ano man ang data that we have presented to the stakeholders, to FDA (Food and Drug Administration), to DOH ay 'yan din ang ipe-present namin sa ano mang ahensiya ang magtatawag sa amin para magbigay ng information. Of course we will cooperate," Santos added.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which requested for an NBI probe, said it has documented three deaths in Central Luzon allegedly as a result of the dengue vaccination.
"Nagkaroon ng parang warning 'yung Sanofi Pasteur, 'yung manufacturer, sa government officials. Kaya ang susunod na tanong ay nasunod ba? O naiparating ba ito sa karamihan ng nasa DOH kung itong warning ng Sanofi ay talagang naibigay? At kung naibigay, ito ba ay talagang naipatupad ng ating DOH officials?" Aguirre said.
Aguirre urged parents whose children may have suffered adverse effects of the vaccine to help in the investigation.
"To help this investigation, nananawagan po kami sa mga na-injection nitong Dengvaxia na ito na mayroong adverse effect sa inyong mga anak, come forward to us, give your information to the NBI, help the NBI para matukoy po natin at matulungan ang ating gobyerno ng kanilang gagawin sapagkat dapat malaman ng gobyerno kung ano ang nangyari lalong lalo na iyong may adverse effect dito sa mga batang naturukan ng vaccine na ito," he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said they have not yet received any reports of individuals experiencing a "severe case" of the disease.
On Friday, the Health Department stopped the use of Dengvaxia—the vaccine used in the program—after French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur issued a statement setting limits to the use and application of Dengvaxia as results of a recent study showed it can actually put at risk people who have not been previously exposed to the disease.
According to the DOH, more than 733,000 children, 9 years old and above, from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon were given the first three doses of Dengvaxia since it was launched.
The DOH said it would evaluate the program in close coordination with the Department of Education to monitor the condition of students who have been given Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine. — VDS/RSJ/ALG, GMA News