The Department of Health of the Philippines allegedly ignored experts' recommendations regarding Dengvaxia, the vaccine that is now at the center of a nationwide controversy.
The country's government is now probing the dengue vaccination program that has reportedly exposed hundreds of thousands of its recipients to an even bigger risk of contracting the potentially fatal virus.
Philippines Ignored Expert Advice On Dengvaxia
French drug company Sanofi recently announced that the dengue vaccine given by the government of the Philippines to 830,000 children did not protect them from the virus. Instead, the recipients of Dengvaxia were exposed to a higher risk of falling ill to dengue.
Dengvaxia, the first-ever approved vaccine for dengue, is capable of providing protection to all four strains of the virus. However, Sanofi said that the vaccine only worked with people who were previously infected with the virus. For those who have not yet been exposed to dengue, being injected with Dengvaxia may lead to more severe cases of dengue.
As the investigation into the controversy continues, Reuters published a report that claimed that the government of the Philippines, during the launch of the vaccination program early last year, ignored the advice given by experts regarding Dengvaxia.
Janette Garin, the secretary of the country's Department of Health at the time, announced in January 2016 that the government plans to vaccinate 1 million children with Dengvaxia. However, after her announcement, the Formulary Executive Council of advisers urged caution on the vaccine because its safety and cost effectiveness were not yet established.
The council recommended to Garin that the dengue vaccination program should be rolled out in small-scale pilot tests instead of nationwide right away. The launch of the program should also only follow a study on the prevalent strains of the dengue virus in targeted areas.
The experts also said that Dengvaxia should be purchased in small batches to keep costs down, a recommendation that was echoed by a report from Garin's department that the price of 1,000 Philippine pesos, or about $21.29 per dose, was not cost-effective.
However, Garin ignored all these recommendations and proceeded with the planned Dengvaxia program, Reuters reported, for reasons that are unclear.
Former Philippines Health Secretary On The Hot Seat
The Department of Health, under the leadership of Garin, purchased 3 million doses of Dengvaxia at 1,000 Philippine pesos each. Baseline studies were carried out, but were not focused on dengue.
Garin, who was part of the government of the former President, Benigno Aquino III, will now face inquiries from the country's Senate. The former health secretary, meanwhile, has denied allegations of corruption behind the Dengvaxia program.