MANILA -- Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has welcomed Sanofi Pasteur’s move to refund the government PHP1.4 billion for the unused doses of the controversial dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, in the health department’s public immunization program.

"We will ask for a full refund eventually. But for the meantime, we want the immediate withdrawal of all (Dengvaxia) vaccine vials stored in our cold chain facilities," Duque said in an interview Monday.

"Ang importante kasi mai-withdraw na nila lahat ng mga vials because they are also eating up our space. Hindi kami makatanggap ng bagong bakuna sa cold chain facilities and RITM and regional storage facilities (It is important that they withdraw the remaining vials, which are eating up space in our cold chain facilities. We could not accept new vaccines in these facilities, as well as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and regional storage facilities),” he added.

The health chief said they also requested Sanofi to provide test kits developed by the University of Pittsburgh to conduct serotesting on children who received Dengvaxia, especially if they had no previous history of infection before receiving it.

Meanwhile, Sanofi said that their decision to reimburse the government for unused doses “is not related to any safety or quality issue with Dengvaxia”.

“Rather Sanofi Pasteur hopes that this decision will allow us to be able to work more openly and constructively with the DOH (Department of Health) to address the negative tone towards the dengue vaccine in the Philippines today," the pharmaceutical company said in a statement, maintaining that Dengvaxia’s overall benefit remained positive in high endemic countries like the Philippines. (PNA)