Justice dep’t indicts former health minister in connection with Dengvaxia controversy

Former Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin at the Senate investigation of the Dengvaxia controversy in July 2018. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News
Former Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin at the Senate investigation of the Dengvaxia controversy in July 2018. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that it has indicted former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin and other government officials with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide in connection with the government’s anti-dengue immunization program.

She and other respondents will be charged with violating Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, CNN reported.

In a statement sent to GMA News, the DOJ said Garin and her co-accused showed “inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight” when they purchased the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and used it in the government’s school-based mass immunization program.

The statement reads: “The panel found sufficient evidence that Garin and the other respondents circumvented various regulations in the purchase of PHP3.5 billion (US$67.670 million) worth of Dengvaxia vaccine which constituted proof of their reckless imprudence.”

According to a copy of the DOJ resolution dated Feb. 11 but released only today, the Philippine Star reported that Garin was indicted with the following former DOH officials:

  • Dr. Vincente Belizario Jr.
  • Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go
  • Dr. Gerardo Bayugo
  • Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy
  • Dr. Irma Asuncion
  • Dr. Julius Lecciones
  • Dr. Maria Joyce Ducusin
  • Dr. Rosalind Vianzon
  • Dr. Mario Baquilod

The DOJ also indicted several officials of Sanofi, the makers of Dengvaxia; officials from the Food and Drug Administration, and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

However, the complaints against current DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III and officers of Zuellig Pharma Corporation, the company that distributed Dengvaxia in the Philippines, were dismissed.

The indictment stems from the complaints filed by parents of children who allegedly died from Dengvaxia. They based their complaints on the findings of the Public Attorney’s Office’s (PAO) forensic team who concluded that it was Dengvaxia that allegedly killed their children.

Dengvaxia was included in the government’s dengue vaccination program which was launched in 2016 shortly before President Benigno Aquino III’s term ended, ABS-CBN News reported. Some 800,000 school children were immunized in the government’s program.

In November 2017, Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, issued an advisory to say that the vaccine posed a risk for patients who have not been infected by the dengue virus before immunization.  However, it also said that there were no confirmed deaths caused by the vaccine, ABS-CBN reported.

Sanofi’s advisory led PAO chief Persida Acosta to launch an investigation into the deaths of children who were immunized with Dengvaxia.

Acosta has said that the PAO has autopsied the bodies of 113 alleged victims but alleged that the total number could reach as high as 600.

However, current DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said there was no established link between Dengvaxia and the death of the supposed victims. Duque has said Acosta’s baseless accusations against immunization have led to the rise of measles cases, reported ABS-CBN News.

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