Duque ‘pregnant with doubt’ on Dengvaxia

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (right) speaks next to former health secretary Jannete Garin (left) during a senate hearing in Manila on December 11, 2017, on the dengue vaccine "dengvaxia" by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. The Philippine Senate began its probe into a public dengue immunisation programme which was suspended this month after French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said its vaccine could lead to severe infections in some cases. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque on Monday accused officials of Sanofi Pasteur of “mental dishonesty” about their anti-dengue vaccine’s effectiveness, saying he doubted their assurances of their safety and efficacy.

“I think they have not been forthright from the beginning,” Duque said. “My index of suspicion is so high. I am pregnant with doubt. We should not allow this. We are talking about the lives of children.”

About  730,000 schoolchildren had received at least one dose of the vaccine under the public program while 32,000 patients were vaccinated in private hospitals, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said on Monday.

Medical experts who were part of an advisory body to the health department told the inquiry they had recommended only “phased implementation” of the vaccine and not mass immunization, pending further clinical trials.

Responding to questions from senators, the experts said the launch of the public vaccination program was “premature”.

Senator Richard Gordon, head of the committee leading the probe, said the government had approved the public immunization program with “undue haste” and without sufficient preparation.