‘Biggest public health scam’: Expert wants legal action over risky vaccine program

DENGVAXIA. The world’s first anti-dengue vaccine is administered to Filipino grade-schoolers under the government’s school-based dengue immunization program. File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

via ABS-CBN News – A public health expert on Friday called for legal action on the government’s recently suspended dengue immunization program, after a vaccine maker said the drug poses risks to individuals not previously infected with dengue.

In a Facebook post, Dr. Susan Mercado, a former government health undersecretary and director of noncommunicable diseases and health through the life-course of the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific, said the the P3.4 billion vaccine program was the “biggest government funded clinical-trial-masked-as-a-public-health-program scam of an experimental drug in the history of the [Department of Health].”

“This was reckless and irresponsible from the start and the public was deceived into thinking this vaccine would protect children from dengue,” the post read.

“The public health community has been outraged for over a year. Legal action is now necessary. Families should be compensated for damages and the decision-makers behind this deal should be brought to justice.”

Mercado said many scientists and experts voiced their opposed the vaccination program before it was implemented.

“As far as I know, there were many scientists, many voices who were not in agreement with doing this immunization program even within the Department of Health. And I think records are going to show that even before formulary exec that was in charge of the technical oversight for allowing a new vaccine to be used for public health purposes was not in favor of using this,” she said in an ANC interview.

She added that someone should be held accountable for the program that vaccinated children who have not had the dengue virus and put them at risk of more serious illnesses.

“Well, I was saying that we should have legal action. Right now, it is not clear to me. I am not a lawyer. I don’t know how to attribute the accountability but somebody should be accountable for all those children who were vaccinated who do not have had dengue, could have a severe case of dengue 10 years from now,” she said.

The Philippines was the 1st country in Asia to approve the Dengvaxia vaccine for individuals aged 9 and 45 years old in December 2015.

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