dengvaxia fiasco: a curious conspiracy

curious because it straddles two administrations, aquino’s and duterte’s.  former president aquino’s DOH sec janette garin started it rolling in april 2016 (though she alleges that it was secretary enrique ona (whom she replaced) who first pushed for the use of dengvaxia.  president duterte’s first DOH sec paulyn ubial tried to stop it but she was overruled by the 17th congress, it would seem.  read A huge conspiracy by jojo robles; though known to be a ka-DDS, he does not hesitate to call out both houses of the 17th congress for refusing to heed warnings by medical professioonals.

When the current Congress opened in the middle of last year, a two-term lawmaker from Quezon province, Rep. Angelina Tan, who was also chairman of the House committee on health, started an investigation into the P3.5-billion “midnight” anti-dengue immunization program of the Aquino administration using the Dengvaxia vaccine. By February of this year, the committee of Tan, a rural doctor by profession, had completed a draft report on its probe, which contained damning findings and recommended the suspension of the program.

According to the Tan committee, the Department of Health found that 997 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, a product of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, suffered “adverse effects” after being inoculated with the first of the three-dose vaccine. Fully 30 of these cases required hospitalization, the committee report said, and two of the 30 children died.

… what the House leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez actually did was to stymie the Tan committee and bury its draft report. The two committees were unable to form a consensus, thereby effectively “killing” the Tan panel’s explosive findings.

Instead of suspending the implementation of the Dengvaxia program, the House even convinced Health Secretary-designate Paulyn Ubial to expand it to the Central Visayas region. Under the Aquino administration, the program had only targeted children in public schools in three regions—Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog—for inclusion in the program.

During the confirmation and budget hearings attended by Ubial, she was repeatedly pressured to widen the scope of the vaccination program, which the health secretary initially resisted on medical grounds. At the same time, a vocal anti-Ubial faction rose in the House, led by Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque (who is now spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte), among others, which Ubial decided would only stop opposing her appointment if she agreed to continue and expand the Dengvaxia immunization campaign; ironically, Ubial’s appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments despite her expansion of the vaccination scheme.

It is worth noting that a similar investigation started by Senator Richard Gordon on the Dengvaxia immunization program in the Senate in December last year also went nowhere. Gordon, in an interview this week, allegedly cited a lack of public interest in the case and the refusal of DoH officials led by Ubial to cooperate in the Senate probe.

read Roque hits DOH flip-flopping on dengue vaccines back in dec 2016.  read also Health professionals umalmang huwag ‘i-hostage’ ang DOH budget back in october 2016, this one naming cebu rep gwen garcia, yes, she who today assiduously argues for cj sereno’s impeachment, as leader of the pro-dengvaxia pack.

Sa ginanap na DOH budget hearing noong Setyembre, sinabi raw ng ilang mga mambabatas sa pangunguna ni Cebu Congresswoman Gwen Garcia, na hindi ipapasa ang DOH budget kung hindi isasama ang alokasyon para sa implementasyon ng mas malawakang dengue vaccine program.

Nauna nang sinabi ng DOH na itutuloy na lamang ang 2nd at 3rd doses ng vaccine para sa halos 500,000 na batang nabigyan na ng unang dose pero hindi na ito dadagdagan pa ng iba pang batch ng mga batang tuturukan ng bakuna hanggat hindi nasisiguro ng ahensya na ligtas ito.

Ito ang naging desisyon ng DOH batay na rin sa rekomedasyon ng panel of experts na kanilang binuo. Naniniwala kasi ang mga ekperto na posibleng may long-term at short-term side effects ang bakuna kaya’t kailangan pa nito nang mas masusing pag-aaral.

Iginigiit naman ng mga mambabatas, kailangan ng kanilang constituents ang vaccine.

looking forward to senate hearing tomorrow.  meron daw surprise witness from DOH.    it would be good to hear from dr. ona, too, and from spokesman harry and rep gwen na rin, please.


  1. RESPONSE OF former Secretary of Health Enrique T. Ona RE DENGVAXIA ISSUE:

    I was Secretary of Health from June 2010 to December 2014, a period of four and a half years.

    During this period the Sanofi Pasteur Pharma group would request a briefing for me on the status of the clinical trial of their anti-dengue vaccine being tested (phase 3 trial) in Southeast Asia including the Philippines as well as several countries in South America. This occurred almost annually during my term as Secretary.

    This was of great interest to me since Dengue fever is not only rampant in the Philippines, almost appearing all year round and was also being used as one of the “measures of our public health performance” by the public.

    I had high hopes, like many others that the vaccine being developed would eventually control this mosquito borne disease that afflicts more than a hundred thousand Filipinos (patients) annually and scares so many foreign visitors and tourists.

    Unfortunately, during all this time until the end of my term, the Sanofi staff, though optimistic, never claimed that the vaccine was ready for general use and only gave a vague projection to me of the time when it may be ready for launching. I recall in more than one occasion that I mentioned in passing to then President Aquino of a possible dengue vaccine that maybe ready “anytime soon.” However, we did not allocate any budget for dengue vaccine for 2016 since I considered this vaccine as still at its “developmental stage.” and was undergoing further observation and evaluation.

    I was out of the government in 2016 when I first heard that the DOH was going to purchase this new Sanofi Pasteur dengue vaccine, now with a brand name Dengvaxia to be given to children above 9 years and allocating “several billion” pesos, an amount more than the entire budget for all other vaccines being procured by the DOH annually!

    It may be relevant to this commentary for me to cite an article at one of the world’s most respected and credible journals, the New England Journal of Medicine, September 24, 2015 issue which concluded: the efficacy profile at 25 months of disease surveillance was complex. —–efficacy caused by serotype 2 ranged from 67-80% and lower still for those who were seronegative at baseline. This report with a separate accompanying editorial, entitled, “A Candidate Dengue Vaccine Walks a Tightrope”, by Cameron P. Simmons, Ph.D., if read by any expert in infectious diseases or public health would have made one wait for more follow up studies to further evaluate the safety and efficacy, sans cost, in short “value for money,” so essential in today’s health environment.

    In the light of the Sanofi Pasteur advisory on the use of the antidengue vaccine Dengvaxia, the leadership that took over the DOH after I left in December 20, 2014 is solely responsible for all the decisions that has resulted in what is becoming to be a major health nightmare in the country today.
    December 9, 2017.

  2. “Rushed” by Malou Tiquia… The worst part is that the 17th Congress does not even feel that it was crossed. No jurisdictional issue raised. Imagine for an allotment to be made without Congress approval? They held hearings early on and nothing came of it. Garin was not even reprimanded. She was allowed to walk through and even got herself appointed as consultant to Speaker Bebot Alvarez.