While government officials point fingers and shift the blame for the dengue vaccine failure, tens of thousands of innocent children who were treated like lab rats are facing a lifetime risk of contracting severe dengue due to some authorities’ sheer recklessness and complete oversight.
Over 860,000 Filipinos across the National Capital Region, Region IV – CALABARZON and Central Luzon have been administered the first-ever dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia since 2016, and according to the Department of Health (DOH), eight to 10 percent of them are now exposed to the drug’s ill effects.
After six years of clinical tests by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, they found that Dengvaxia could actually cause severe dengue to those have not yet been infected by the virus.
Although Health Secretary Francisco Duque III ordered the temporary suspension of the dengue immunization program, the damage has already been done and parents are demanding remedies for their children, as well as solutions for the government’s mistakes.
Following a “series of tests,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine for the prevention of the disease caused by all four dengue types in individuals from nine to 45 years old living in high-risk areas.
Despite not receiving a go signal from the World Health Organization, the FDA approval was used by then DOH Secretary Janette Garin to launch school-based dengue vaccination program for public school students nine years old and above and policemen.
The decision to subject Filipinos to what was revealed to be a wide scale testing of a dangerous drug revives complaints against officials in populous nations who easily allow the poor to be used for the field testing of new drugs.
Needless to say, the authorities who should have been acting as gatekeepers failed to do their due diligence. If Garin, and the rest of former President Benigno Aquino III’s administration for that matter, weren’t too haste in purchasing Php 3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia, this dengue incident could have been prevented.
Moreover, if they had only waited for further testing to ensure that the vaccine was totally safe for all, then tens and thousands of Filipino children wouldn’t have to deal with health risks instead of the protection that they agreed to.
To address this dengue vaccine scare, the government should stop asking who’s at fault and instead focus their efforts on monitoring those who were administered the drug but have no history of dengue.
Further, authorities should launch a national information campaign to raise awareness on the said issue and to lessen the fear of several Filipinos.