Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Class suit vs. Sanofi , gov’t execs mulled
By Ding Cervantes

Dec 07, 2017

CLARK FREEPORT - A prominent lawyer urged yesterday parents of pupils who got anti-dengue shots to file a class suit against vaccine manufacturer Sanofi and government officials responsible for the vaccine program.

In an interview with Punto, lawyer Ernesto Francisco, also known as the legal counsel of Sen. Antonio Trillanes, said Sanofi and the officials should also be made to put up a trust fund for the vaccinated Fiipino children.

“I urge other lawyers to take on this class suit pro bono for the sake of the Filipino children and so this will not be repeated,” he said.

Ernesto said “medical professionals and lawyers should join forces for this worthy cause. Philippine government officials responsible should be made to account as well.” While he did not propose any amount for the trust fund,

Ernesto said it “should be in such amount to cover the possible medication of 700,000 Filipino children.

Sanofi recently admitted that the vaccines were not suitable for children who never had any history of dengue fever and the vaccine would lead to severe dengue should they be infected with the mosquito-borne ailment.

This confirmed the findings of a group of experts from the Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of Florida who came out with a study published in September last year in Science journal warning the vaccine should really only be used in places where there is a lot of dengue activity and where most children who receive it will have already had at least one bout of the disease.

The Department of Health (DOH) said some 700,000 public school children were given their fi rst shots of the dengue vaccine, called Dengvaxia, in April last year. The initial plan was to give each child a series of three doses, but the DOH has announced a halt to the plan.

42,000 pupils

It has turned out, however, that at least in Pampanga, over 42,000 public school pupils have already been given all the three-dose anti-dengue vaccinations.

An official of the Department of Education in Pampanga said that while consent of the children’s parents was fi rst obtained, they were not informed at all about the experimental nature of the vaccine. Figures obtained by Punto from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) said the third and final doses of Dengvaxia were administered earlier this year to 32,210 pupils in the DepEd division of Pampanga, 6,855 pupils in the division of Angeles City, and 4,691 pupils in the division of San Fernando. Figures from the division of Mabalacat City were not immediately available.

Ponciana Lenon of the health and nutrition office of the DepEd division of Pampanga, said the written consent of the parents were first obtained before the immunizations were carried out initially in April, 2016.

She admitted, however, that while materials for the signature of parents indicated an- ti-dengue vaccines were to be administered and warned of possible side effects, they did not in- clude information on the experimental nature of the vaccine.

This, even as parents of children studying at the Lakandula Elemen- tary School in Mabalacat City expressed support for the plan of the De- partment of Justice to fi le criminal cases against former and current officials of the Department of Health (DOH) for the vaccines controversy.

“All our lives, we have worked hard for the welfare of our children, but some officials of the DOH, whom we initial- ly trusted on the project, seem to have conspired to transform our children into guinea pigs,” said parent Daniel Cabrera whose daughter re- ceived two of the three doses of Dengvaxia at the school.

The last and final Denvaxia vaccina- tions were administered in the first semester of this year.

The earlier two doses were admin- istered during the term of former Pres. Noynoy Aquino whose administration allocated P3.5 billion for the project.

Cabrera said the DOH should shoulder all medical expenses of vaccinated children who would suffer from possible consequenc- es of Dengvaxia.

“It is not enough that the government investigates and files charges. It should also be prepared to shoulder the medical costs of victims,” he said.

Severe dengue

Vaccine manufacturer Sanofi has admitted that dengue could be “severe” among those who had never been ill of dengue and were later give Dengvaxia shots. This admission has prompted the government to halt the program and call for a probe.

The DOH said that more than 733,000 chil- dren already received the fi rst doses of the vaccines administered in April, 2016.It would seem, however, that all three doses of Dengvaxia have already been given to many children. The Philippines is the first country to have used government funds for mass Dengvaxia vaccinations.

This, despite other studies warning against the vaccine.

“That’s because data from the studies used to approve the vaccine — called Dengvaxia, and produced by Sanofi Pasteur — showed a higher rate of hospitalizations for dengue three years after vaccination in young children who got the vaccine when com- pared to children who were unvaccinated,” the study said.

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