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Roque says Dengvaxia gaffe pushed COVID-19 vaccine makers to insist on indemnity agreement


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday that COVID-19 vaccine makers are pushing for indemnity agreement due to the Dengvaxia experience, citing vaccine czar Carlito Galvez’s earlier claims.

Roque made the remark when reporters pressed him on the arrival date of COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines after the delay.

“Alam niyo po talagang ang sinabi sa atin ng COVAX facility eh darating yung kanilang Pfizer  eh dapat sa gitna ng Pebrero. Pero naantala nga po bakit? Tapatan na po, ang Pfizer ang siya ring gumawa ng Dengvaxia na bakuna na naging dahilan kung bakit nakasuhan hindi lang ang mga opisyales ng gobyerno kundi opisyales ng Pfizer,” Roque said in a PTV 4 interview, referring to the 117,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer-BioNTech under COVAX facility that he said should have arrived middle of February.

Roque mistakenly referred to Dengvaxia maker Sanofi Pasteur and not Pfizer, which he later corrected.

“Kaya humihingi sila ng indemnity agreement dahil ang kanilang bakuna ay covered ng EUA (emergency use authorization), at hindi pa ng general use authorization. Gumalaw naman po ang ating pamahalaan, ang Kongreso ay bumubuo ng isang batas na nagsasabi na gobyerno na ang magbabayad ng danyos para sa lahat ng magkakaroon ng side effects. Na-certify naman ito kahapon as urgent ng ating Presidente, kaya inaasahan n ating magiging batas ito,”  he said.

The Dengvaxia controversy started in November 2017 when Sanofi-Pasteur announced that their vaccine posed a risk to those who were not infected by dengue prior to being injected with the vaccine.

However, the announcement only came after the vaccine had been administered to over 700,000 children and even policemen.

At least 100 vaccinated individuals have died of unconfirmed causes after receiving Dengvaxia doses, and health officials have ruled that that fatalities cannot be directly linked to the vaccine.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Sanofi returned P1.16 billion to the Department of Health for the unused doses of vaccine.

In correcting himself, Roque still insisted that Pfizer is seeking indemnity for its COVID-19 vaccines because of Sanofi-Pasteur’s Dengvaxia experience.

“Lilinawin ko, mukhang mali ang sinabi ko kanina. Ang manufacturer ng dengvaxia ay Sanofi hindi Pfizer. Pero alam nyo po puro Europeans yan naguusap-usap po yan. Kaya nga po parang naging mas maingat ang Pfizer bilang isang kapwa European manufacturer ng Sanofi pagdating sa pagsusuplay ng EUA,” Roque added.

However, Pfizer is an American company, and not European.

Later, Roque said that COVID-19 vaccines, which are approved for emergency use, are not similar to Dengvaxia that had been approved for general use.

“Uulitin ko po ang sinabi ng mga dalubhasa. Sinabi ni dating [Health] Secratary [Esperanza] Cabral, ang Dengvaxia po eh dumaan sa proseso, hindi lang sa Pilipinas kung hindi sa buong mundo at sa WHO (World Health Organization). Ito ay binigyan ng GUA (general use authorization) hindi lang po EUA, at ito po ay desisyon ng WHO at ng lahat ng dalubhasa sa daigdig na ligtas ang Dengvaxia para gamitin sa dengue,” Roque said.

“Pero ang nangyari dito sa Pilipinas, hindi pa naman napapatunayan na ang mga namatay dahil sa Dengvaxia. Nagkaroon lang ng pagkatakot, kaya nga po ngayon umaapela kami: unang una Pilipinas pakinggan po natin ang mga dalubhasa, epidemiologist, specialista, mga vaccinologist at lahat naman sila nagsasabi na bagamat EUA, eh mas marami ‘yung benepisyo na makukuha natin sa mga bakuna laban sa COVID-19 kaysa dun sa kanilang posibleng mga side effects,” Roque added. —GMA News

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