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VACC to ask DOJ to probe purchase of dengue vaccine

An anti-crime advocacy group on Saturday said it will ask the Department of Justice (DOJ) to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the P3.5-billion purchase of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, days after its manufacturer raised potential health concerns.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman Dante Jimenez said they will formally make the request on Monday.

"This is even worse than any heinous crimes," Jimenez said at a news briefing in Quezon City.

This announcement comes on the heels of an advisory from French-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur saying new clinical analysis has found the vaccine is effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization, but citing a risk of a "severe" case of dengue for people who have not.

This makes around 10 percent of the more than 700,000 school children who received the shots in 2016 at risk from a "severe" case of the disease, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Allaying fears from worried parents, Duque said the vaccine will in any case provide a 30-month protection period against dengue and assured the public that the Department of Health (DOH) is on top of the situation.

The DOH has suspended its dengue vaccination program pending recommendation on further action from experts from the World Health Organization.

The VACC will also be seeking compensation for the families whose children may have received potentially risky anti-dengue shots, said Jimenez, adding they will be setting up desks to receive complaints from concerned parents.

Jimenez cited news reports as sources of the grounds for the planned request, which he said will demand accountability from officials responsible for the immunization program.

There is an ongoing Senate blue ribbon committee investigation, in aid of legislation, into the government's P3.5-billion purchase of Dengvaxia, the world's first dengue vaccine, during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The probe is led by Senator Richard Gordon, who said the purchase and the vaccine's subsequent testing on around a million Filipino schoolchildren may have been made in "haste."

The committee has not produced a report yet.

The DOH said on Friday that it will cooperate should the probe resume. —ALG, GMA News