MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday called on former President Benigno S. Aquino III to come forward and clarify the mass dengue vaccination program that was implemented during his term.
In a television interview, Duque said it would be better if Aquino would help shed light on what transpired prior to the Department of Health’s (DOH) launch of the program back in April 2016.
"Absolutely, he (Aquino) should. To clear this, because everybody is just speculating. It is for his own good," Duque said.
He cited in particular the need for Aquino to explain his meeting with officials of Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of Dengvaxia, in Paris, France back in December 2015, a few months before the school-based vaccination program was rolled out in the Philippines.
"The former president himself should just come forward and say, 'This is what happened and this is what I agreed to based on sound recommendation that I followed because somebody advised me,'" said Duque.
Dengvaxia was first licensed in Mexico in December 2015, the same time the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the license for the vaccine, making it available to private clinics and hospitals.
Duque said he believes that Sanofi was not being totally transparent when it explained the potential ill effects of the dengue vaccine in its recent media conference.
He noted how Sanofi openly acknowledged seeing Grades 1 and 2 dengue symptoms while not observing Grade 4 but was silent on Grade 3.
"That is what I want to ask them,” Duque said. “There they should have been more transparent or forthright in saying if there are any or none (Grade 3 symptoms).”
He was referring to the recent press conference held by Sanofi officials, wherein they downplayed the supposed definition of "severe" manifestations of dengue.
Meanwhile, Duque said they are not yet ruling out the possibility that a recipient of the dengue vaccine in Bataan had died in October 2016 due to the ill effects of Dengvaxia.
He said they will validate the cause of the child’s death, as well as the dengue shots given to her.
"I have yet to see the complete documents on the alleged death," said Duque.
He also said they are looking into the possibility of exhuming the girl’s body as part of the investigation to find out if her death is linked to the dengue vaccine. (PNA)