May 27, 2018, 1:41 am
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Duque charged in new Dengvaxia complaint

ANOTHER criminal complaint was filed yesterday before the Department of Justice in connection with the Dengvaxia vaccine, this time with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III among the respondents.

Aside from Duque, also charged by the family of 13-year-old Abbie Hedia of Muntinlupa City for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violation of the Anti-Torture Act were former health secretary Janette Garin and 35 other former and current health officials, as well as executives of Sanofi Pasteur and Zuellig Pharma Corp., the manufacturer and the local distributor of the dengue vaccine.

Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Rueda Acosta, who assisted the Hedia family in filing the case, said the complainant included Duque in the complaint since the victim was vaccinated last November when he was already the health chief.

“The best thing Secretary Duque can do is to explain his side to the DOJ as well in the court once the case reaches it,” Acosta told reporters after the filing of the case.

She said Hedia died last February 10 due to extensive brain hemorrhage and multiple organ failure.

Similar to the previous criminal cases, Thursday’s complaint said the respondents committed “malicious and arbitrary failure to inform the public of the dangers and risks of Dengvaxia” and “undue haste for the mass administration of the vaccine while it was still in its clinical trial stage.”

It said the respondents also failed to conduct “proper screening of recipients” as well as monitoring the reactions of those who received the vaccine.

As to the violation of the Anti-Torture Act, the complaint said the respondents should be held liable since they intentionally inoculated the recipients with an unsafe product undergoing clinical trial, which caused them not only severe pain, exhaustion, disability or dysfunction of one or more parts of the body, but death.

It will be recalled that PAO also assisted four families whose kids died allegedly after being immunized with Dengvaxia.

Also named in Thursday’s complaint not included in the previous cases were Dr. Maria Lourdes Santiago and Melody Zamudio.

Santiago is the acting deputy director for Field Regulatory Operations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and was the FDA’s OIC when the agency allowed Sanofi to sell the dengue vaccine in the country in December 2015.

Zamudio was OIC of the FDA’s Center for Drug Regulation and Research.

Aside from Duque and Garin, also included in the complaint are Dr. Socorro Lupisan and Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM); and other officials of the Department of Health (DOH) who were involved in the purchase of the vaccine, namely, Vicente Belizario Jr., Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Gertardo Bayugo, Lyndon Lee Suy, Irma Ascuncion, Julius Lecciones, Joyce Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon, and Mario Baguilod.

Also named respondents were executives of Sanofi, namely, Carlito Realuyo, Sanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean-Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo, Pearl Grace Cabali, and Marie Esther De Antoni.

Also charged were executives of Zuellig, namely, Kasigod Jamias, Michael Becker, Ricardo Romulo, Imran Babar Chugtai, Raymund Azurin, Nilo Badiola, John Stokes Davison, Marc Franck, Ashley Gerard Antonio, Ana Liza Peralta, Rosa Maria Chua, Danilo Cahoy, Manuel Concio III, Roland Goco, and Ma. Visitacion Barreiro.

A total of 860, 000 people, including 830, 000 children, were inoculated with Dengvaxia before the DOH stopped the program in November last year after Sanofi announced that it may pose risks to those without a history of dengue infection.   

DISSENTING OPINION

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon found no “conclusive scientific evidence” that the reported deaths were connected with Dengvaxia as he pressed for the matter to be studied further by “qualified pathologists.”

Drilon made the statement in his 30-page dissenting vote which he submitted to the Senate blue ribbon committee.

The Senate committee report on the Dengvaxia controversy recommended holding former president Benigno Simeon Aquino III and his officials liable for the vaccine mess.

Drilon said he does not concur with the Senate blue ribbon committee’s report, which recommended the filing of charges against Aquino, former health secretary Janette Garin, and former budget secretary Florencio Abad, among others, over the purchase and administration of the vaccine.

“Upon careful review of the draft report, I would like to inform you that I disagree with its findings, conclusions and recommendations,” Drilon said in a letter to committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon.

“Thus, in accordance with Rule XI, Section 24 of the Rules of the Senate, I am formally entering my objection thereto and submitting herewith my dissenting vote,” he added.

Drilon said as an ex-officio member of the committees that conducted the inquiry on the Dengvaxia controversy, he is duty-bound to consider all available evidence before making any conclusion.

He warned against selecting segments of evidence to fit the desired conclusion while hiding or ignoring those that tend to refute it.

 “Declaring certain personalities guilty at this point would not only be premature but would also reinforce impressions of the politicization of a legitimate public health concern that must be addressed in a clinical manner,” Drilon said.

However, he said, “If and when it is indubitably established that Dengvaxia is the proximate cause of the deaths in question, all those involved should be made to account – without exception.”

Drilon pointed out that good faith is evident in the process by which the former president arrived at his decision to procure the vaccine - considering factors such as the prevalence of dengue in certain regions of the country, the spike in reported cases in areas outside of Metro Manila, the cost of getting sick, the estimated cost for the entire country which could total P58.2 billion, the absence of a cure for dengue, and the fact that countries like Mexico and Brazil have already approved the vaccine. 

He emphasized that Aquino acted in good faith, upon the advice and reports of his subordinates.

Drilon, citing the findings of the PGH Investigative Task Force and the statements of dengue expert Dr. Halstead, contradicted the report’s conclusion linking the reported deaths of several children to Dengvaxia, stressing, “there is no proof that Dengvaxia was the proximate cause of the children’s deaths.”

Drilon quoted Dr. Halstead’s testimony at the Senate, who said that the diagnosis on whether Dengvaxia caused death cannot be based on mere autopsy.

The minority leader also said Aquino did not commit technical malversation when he authorized the purchase of Dengvaxia, as it is well within his constitutional authority to use the savings to fund the Dengvaxia procurement.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the committee report is just Gordon’s political stunt.

He said charges against the officials of the Aquino administration have no bases without scientific conclusion to the hearings, which he said was monopolized by Gordon.

When told that Acosta was one of the witnesses, Trillanes said: “(Si) Persida Acosta na ngayon ang eksperto… malaking problema ng Pilipinas nyan.”

SCAM

The Department of Health (DOH) – Calabarzon warned residents of Region 4A against the presence of unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of the Dengvaxia controversy by claiming to assist the vaccine’s recipients.

“It has come to the knowledge of the regional office that a certain group of individuals claiming as good Samaritans wanting to extend help to vaccinees are requesting assistance and dengue kits to be given to students of Malakaban, Binangonan, Rizal,” said DOH-CALABARZON in a statement.

“We wish to inform the public that there are no such children suffering from any complication against Dengvaxia in the area,” it said. – With Gerard Naval
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