The Philippines’ Justice Department on Monday ordered an investigation into the dengue immunisation of no fewer than 750,000 children using a vaccine that might have harmful effects on patients.
The programme was suspended on Friday after the French vaccine-maker, Sanofi Pasteur revealed that children, who were given the vaccine but had not previously been infected by dengue might be at risk of contracting a more dangerous strain.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) would look into “the alleged danger to public health arising from the 3.5-billion-peso (70-million-dollar) anti-dengue vaccination drive … and if evidence so warrants, to file appropriate charges thereon,” Justice Secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre, said.
“Was it correct to order that much worth of vaccine that 750,000 children were given the vaccine when it was just four months since it was given the licence? Is that right?” Aguirre told a news conference.
“Is there criminal liability? A graft and corruption aspect?” he asked.
Pasteur, which developed the vaccine Dengvaxia, noted that so far there no deaths had been reported as a result of receiving the immunisation.
“As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination,” Ruby Dizon, Medical Director at Sanofi Pasteur Philippines, told a news conference
“Rest assurred, monitoring is continuing, we are working with the Department of Health … to make sure this is maintained,” she added.
The Department of Health launched the nationwide immunisation programme in April 2016, targeting children aged nine years and above.
The Philippines was the first country in the world to launch a nationwide dengue vaccination programme using Sanofi’s Dengvaxia, which is also approved for use in more than 15 countries.