“It was this criminal liability of Garin that tainted the public’s trust in vaccines. It was this indiscriminate mass vaccination and underdistribution of safe vaccines that caused the alleged scare and outbreak,” thus Chief Public Attorney Dr. Persida V. Rueda Acosta said as she claimed vindication after the indictment of former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 19 health and pharmaceutical officials for the deaths of eight schoolchildren allegedly due to the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
“This is proof that we did not create the vaccine scare [that led to the] measles outbreak,” Acosta said.
“There is a medical link [between the deaths and Dengvaxia] and we were able to establish that in the preliminary investigation [of the Department of Justice],” Acosta said.
“We feel vindicated by the findings of the DoJ. Our tireless efforts for the families of victims have paid off,” she added.
The DoJ announced last Friday that it would file eight counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against Garin, nine DoH officials, two officials of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and six directors of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Inc.; and four counts against two officials of the Food and Drug Administration.
The government spent P3.5 billion for the Dengvaxia immunization program that began to be implemented in April 2016.
More than 830,000 schoolchildren had already received at least one dose of Dengvaxia by the time the DoH suspended the program on Dec. 1, 2017, after Sanofi announced that the vaccine could worsen symptoms in vaccinated people who had no previous exposure to the dengue virus.
Sanofi refunded the government P1.4 billion for unused doses of the vaccine, but the DoH said it wanted a full refund.
A panel of six prosecutors led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Emilia Victorio said Garin and the others were careless and hasty in implementing the dengue immunization program in schools.
“They already knew the high risks in conducting the mass immunization of Dengvaxia without blood test and screening, yet they still proceeded with it,” Acosta said.
She said she would ask the DoJ to reconsider its decision to clear Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, a former DOH officer in charge and executives of vaccine distributor Zuellig Pharma.
“There were over 10 deaths during the term of Duque when he pursued the immunization program in November 2017. He deliberately ignored the documented warnings of Filipino experts as early as March 2016,” Acosta said.
The PAO has so far filed 35 complaints for the deaths of 33 minors, a doctor and a police officer allegedly due to Dengvaxia.
The DoJ is expected to resolve soon eight cases while it is conducting a preliminary investigation in 13 other cases.