A REPRESENTATIVE of the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that they did not make a “blanket” recommendation to use the anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, in the immunization drive and explained the process being undertaken when introducing a new vaccine.
“These position papers did not make blanket recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine…,” said WHO Country Representative Dr. Gundo Aurel Weiler during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committe hearing.
He also explained that when introducing a new vaccine WHO first convenes a group of experts into a strategic advisory group, which is tasked to review all available data and make recommendations on the possible use of a vaccine in countries.
Weiler said the advisory group convened in April 2016 and made recommendations in the middle of the month of the same year. These recommendations, he said, were adopted by the WHO, which was later published in July 2016.
The WHO, he said, simply recommended that countries should consider the introduction of the vaccine only in areas where there are high cases of dengue virus.
“The decision about whether to introduce a new vaccine is a decision for government, not the WHO. WHO’s role is to provide the best possible advice based on the available evidence at that time to guide countries in making this decision,” he added.
Besides, he noted that the anti-dengue program was already being implemented even before the WHO published its position paper last July 2016.
“When these position papers were published, we note that the program was actually already on going because it was officially launched prior to the publication of those recommendations,” Weiler said.
PNoy at hearing
Sen. Richard Gordon grilled former President Benigno Aquino III during the Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program.
Gordon enumerated a list of charges against pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pasteur, in other parts of the world.
But Aquino claimed he was not made aware of the controversial issues faced by Sanofi, the manufacturer of controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine, when he met with the firm’s officials twice during his administration.
Gordon cited an instance back in 2012 when Sanofi was fined $109 million in the United States for violating the False Claims Act. Sanofi, the senator added, has already been accused of bribery in several instances in the past.
“I just want to point out – without casting aspersion on your character – that when you meet with drug companies like these…I would imagine that through no fault of your own, you were not briefed on your first meeting with China in APEC, sir?” Gordon asked Aquino.
Aquino replied: “On the allegations or charges against Sanofi, both for the China meeting nor the Paris meeting was I informed of any of these.”
Aquino met with officials of Sanofi on November 9, 2014 in Beijing, China, and on December 1, 2015 in Paris, France.
Gordon said the past administration, specifically former Health Secretary Janette Garin, should have been “more careful and circumspect” in dealing with Sanofi.
The dengue vaccination program began in April 2016 under Garin.
Also during the hearing, Aquino said he was informed that the Dengvaxia vaccine went through rigid local and international processes to assure its efficacy and safety.
“Sinabi sa atin noon na ready na ang Sanofi sa bakuna. ‘Yung ganitong uri ng gamot maraming taon ang pinagdadaanan para masiguro talaga ang safety at efficacy,” said Aquino in his statement.
“Ang intindi natin sa Dengvaxia natapos na ang local at international process na kailangang pagdaanan nito,” he also said.
According to Aquino, the vaccine went through the processes of the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
“Tinignan namin ang US FDA, may five steps po ito: Discovery and Development, Preclinical Research, Clinical Research, FDA Review, at Post-Market Safety Monitoring,” he said.
The former President also pointed out that no one opposed the program before, during and after its implementation.
Around 14,000 members of the Philippine National Police who were given the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine this year are being monitored by PNP Health Service personnel in coordination with all concerned government agencies, officials said yesterday.
PNP chief Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa said that so far, there have been no reported dengue-related deaths or hospital confinements in the PNP specifically among those who were given the Dengvaxia shot.
“I have instructed the PNP Health Service director (Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza) to fully monitor the condition of the concerned policemen and see to it that they will be given immediate and proper medical care once they show any dengue symptoms.
With Alfred Dalizon