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Garin says Dengvaxia should be made available to private sector

Former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Representative Janette Garin on Wednesday said patients and doctors should be allowed to procure Dengvaxia vaccine in light of the increase in dengue cases.

Interviewed on CNN Philippines, Garin said the government should also reconsider its decision to revoke Dengvaxia's certificate of product registration (CPR).

"I am not saying that the government should buy it, but those parents who can afford it and want their children protected should be given the option to buy it," Garin said.

The Department of Health said over 64,000 dengue cases were recorded during the first six months of the year, a 90% increase compared with the same period last year.

Garin said while the Philippines has shunned Dengvaxia, the World Health Organization has listed it under Essential Medicines List (EML). She said governments are mandated to make those under EML available to its people at all times.

"From a public health perspective, if the government will not buy it, at least make it available for the private sector, [for the] pediatricians and parents who want to protect their children," she added.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration revoked Dengvaxia's CPR in February 2019 after it was linked to deaths of around 100 children who received the vaccine even if there were no concrete findings that it indeed caused these children's deaths.

A product issued a CPR allows its manufacturers to sell their product commercially in the country.

The Dengvaxia controversy started when Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi announced in November 2017 that the vaccine posed a serious health risk to those who received the vaccine and were not previously infected by dengue.

Sanofi's announcement came after the vaccine has been administered to more than 800,000 children as well as some adults and policemen, dating back to Garin's tenure as Health secretary during the Aquino administration.

Amid the controversy, Sanofi returned P1.16 billion to the DOH for the unused doses of Dengvaxia.

But Garin said the revocation of Dengvaxia's CPR in 2019 is not because of safety issues but purely an administrative requirement as the vaccine has yet to pass Phase 4 of clinical trials.

She argued that the entirety of Sanofi's findings showed that the benefits of the Dengvaxia vaccine outweighed its risk.

"In the transcript of Sanofi's findings, it said there was .003 or 001 % increased risk for severe dengue and additional one day of hospitalization for those who got a Dengvaxia vaccine and are yet to be infected with dengue. Pero walang namamatay [but nobody died]," Garin said.

"There is also a 90% reduction in deaths [due to dengue] and 83% reduction in severity. Hindi namamatay. Mas malamang ang benefits [The benefits are greater]," she added.

Dengvaxia, Garin said, is still being used in 23 countries.

"If even a single death is attributed to a medicine or a vaccine, global regulations dictate that it would be immediately recalled. Ipagbabawal 'yan [It will be banned]," she said.

"But the WHO even placed it under EML. Kasi hindi totoong may namatay [because it is not true that somebody died because of it]," she added.  —KBK, GMA News