MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A US-based dengue expert on Tuesday (March 13) said he was upset that more than 800,000 Filipino schoolchildren were immunised with the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine without subjecting them first to blood tests.
At the conclusion of the Senate inquiry into the Dengvaxia mess, Dr Scott Halstead confirmed fears aired by doctors that those given the vaccine without prior infection might experience a severe case if they were infected with the virus for the first time.
Halstead said he was "quite upset" that the immunisation went ahead even after he warned drug maker Sanofi Pasteur that blood tests should have been conducted first so that the vaccine would be given only to those who had dengue before.
The blood test was not done prior to the mass vaccination, which Philippine senator Richard Gordon said violated the right of parents and children to informed consent.
Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said former President Benigno Aquino III and other officials were liable for the undue haste in rolling out the P3.5-billion antidengue mass vaccination program.
The committee, he said, would recommend criminal cases against Aquino, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Sanofi Pasteur and other officials involved in administering the vaccine to 830,000 schoolchildren beginning February 2016.
"Definitely criminal proceedings should follow against all these people involved. The health secretaries, definitely Abad, anybody who has anything to do with the speed, the undue haste, the wastage of money and above all the severe pain that has been inflicted," he told reporters.
He said these officials were liable at least for dereliction of duty, negligence, bad faith and violation of the procurement law.
Aquino and Garin have previously denied wrongdoing.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it may take a year or two before they can mass produce the kits to test all those given Dengvaxia for dengue prior to vaccination.
Duque also said that the health department would train personnel to provide counselling to parents and children.