AN NGO in the Philippines has called for the bodies of three children to be exhumed and examined over suspicions that their deaths were caused by an anti-Dengue vaccine that was recently suspended from a nationwide immunisation programme.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Monday called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to exhume and examine the bodies of three children believed to have died because of Dengvaxia, The Inquirer reported.
VACC chair Dante Jimenez was quoted as saying the three from Bataan were given the vaccine in April 2016. “We are now here to request the Secretary [of Justice] to ask the NBI to conduct an exhumation [because] this is really serious,” Jimenez told reporters.
Jimenez said the VACC was cooperating with health authorities to retrieve the names of those who received the vaccines, especially in the country’s main regions.
Last year, more than 730,000 children in the Philippines aged 9 and above received one dose of the vaccine, Dengvaxia.
‘Thousands of lives at risk’
The office of the Philippine president on Sunday vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the immunisation programme, which it said placed thousands of lives at risk.
The Department of Health (DOH) halted on Friday the use of a dengue vaccine made by Sanofi after the company said its use must be strictly limited due to evidence it can worsen the disease in people who have not previously been exposed to the infection.
“We will leave no stone unturned in making those responsible for this shameless public health scam which puts hundreds of thousands of young lives at risk accountable,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
The immunization program is in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization for mass vaccination in highly endemic countries, health officials said on Friday.
Although dengue is not as serious as malaria, it is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world. The virus kills about 20,000 people a year and infects hundreds of millions.
While Sanofi’s Dengvaxia is the first-ever approved vaccine for dengue, scientists already recognised it was not perfect and did not protect equally against the four different types of the virus in clinical tests.
A new analysis from six years of clinical data showed that Dengvaxia vaccine provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection.
But for those not previously infected by the virus, more cases of severe disease could occur in the long term following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection, Sanofi said.
Roque said there had been no reported case of “severe Dengue infection” since the vaccine was administered and called on the public “not to spread information that may cause undue alarm.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has said his department would track the medical history of the thousands of children who were vaccinated and intensify its surveillance to ensure proper care would be given to anyone who may need it.
Senators said over the weekend they would call for an investigation into the dengue immunisation programme to find out what actions the government needed take to protect those who may be exposed to the drug’s negative effect.
Senator JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate’s committee on health, told reporters he wanted to know as well if there was any irregularity in the procurement of the vaccine.
‘No reported deaths’
Sanofi on Monday said there have been no reported deaths in the Philippines related to its vaccine.
“As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination,” Ruby Dizon, medical director at Sanofi Pasteur, told reporters.
“Of course, rest assured, monitoring is continuing, we are working with the Department of Health, in collaboration, to make sure this is maintained,” Pasteue said.
***Additional reporting by Reuters