EDITORIAL: The Dengvaxia catastrophe

One national headline yesterday screamed that the death of five children has been linked to Dengvaxia vaccine. The story was based on a report that forensic experts from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) have found a “link” between the deaths of the five children in Cavite and Laguna and the highly controversial anti-dengue vaccine.

According to Dr. Erwin Erfe, head of the PAO Forensic Laboratory, the experts had observed a pattern in the deaths of children who had been inoculated. The children who fell ill after  receiving Dengvaxia suffered from internal bleeding and enlarged organs. All died six months after they had been inoculated, said the PAO experts.

Authorities in Metro Manila  are now monitoring  the health of more than 830,000 children who received Dengvaxia vaccine during a massive immunization campaign by the Department of Health and the Department of Education in 2015 and 2016. The immunization program started during the administration of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III  cost P3.5 billion. The campaign was stopped last December after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur admitted that persons who had not been afflicted with dengue before if inoculated with Dengvaxia could suffer worse symptoms.

Experts now charge that the Aquino administration should not have launched the immunization program knowing that the controversial vaccine had not yet passed all the needed scientific tests.

Another complication in this case is that the P3.5 billion that funded the campaign was not approved by Congress. A separate thorough investigation should be conducted into this mystery that could be more stinking than the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scandals of the Aquino administration which have been outlawed by the Supreme Court.

While we pray that nothing worse would happen to the more than 830,000 school children mistakenly inoculated with Dengvaxia, we hope that the people responsible for the implementation of the ill-fated immunization program, whoever they are, be brought to court and punished according to law.