Press Release/20 April 2018

Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Friday, April 20, 2018, responded to a suit filed by Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida R. Acosta against the health chief before the Department of Justice.

While the Secretary has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, news reports said Secretary Duque was named among more than 30 respondents in a case filed by PAO in behalf of the parents of 13-year old Abbie Hedia who died due to septic shock, viral encephalitis, acute gastroenteritis and severe dehydration.

Hedia received her first dose of Dengvaxia on November 17, 2017, or about 11 days into Secretary Duque’s administration in the DOH. She died in February 2018.

“The case filed by the Public Attorney’s Office is malicious and oppressive. Atty. Acosta’s actions are clearly unbecoming of a public official and their counterproductive effects are prejudicial to the best interests of the service. While we are focusing on ensuring the health and wellness of the more than 837,000 children who received Dengvaxia, I will nonetheless answer these baseless allegations,” Secretary Duque said in a press conference at the DOH Central Office.

“The DOH will continue its efforts to attend to the health concerns of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.  While this recent case filed by PAO is counterproductive, we need to move forward to ensure that gaps in Dengvaxia vaccination are addressed and that other important health programs of the DOH continue to serve the needs of our people,” he added.

Pronouncements made by the PAO on the Dengvaxia issue can negatively impact longstanding immunization programs and may contribute to the outbreak of otherwise vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.

Dengvaxia vaccination was initiated in March 2016 during the term of former Secretary Janette Garin for school-based vaccination, and was expanded in July 2017 during the term of former Secretary Paulyn Ubial to include community-based vaccination.

On November 29, 2017, Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of Dengvaxia, issued an advisory about the increased risk of contracting severe dengue among seronegative individuals following immunization leading to the immediate suspension of the vaccination program by Secretary Duque the following business day.

“After Sanofi announced that Dengvaxia poses additional risks to seronegative recipients, I immediately suspended the program,” Secretary Duque said.

The Food and Drug Administration also suspended the certificate of product registration (CPR) of Dengvaxia in January 2018 as Sanofi Pasteur failed to comply with the post marketing authorization requirements since the vaccine was approved for marketing in the Philippines in December 2015.

In January 2018, the DOH under the command of Secretary Duque also demanded and successfully facilitated the refund of about P1.16 billion from Sanofi for the unused Dengvaxia vials.  The DOH continues to demand the full refund of the Php 3 billion contract for Dengvaxia vaccines arguing that the product is defective under the Civil Code of the Philippines because it was unfit for the use for which it was originally claimed.

Despite the cases filed by PAO, Secretary Duque said the DOH has the duty to continue protecting and safeguarding the health and welfare of the Filipino people especially the vulnerable, including the children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

Secretary Duque meanwhile gave an update on the recent partnership forged with parents support groups of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, for the joint conduct of school and community-based activities for children and parents which will include psychosocial counseling, distribution of dengue prevention kits, continuous Barangay Monitoring and ensuring immediate referral of dengue cases and other illnesses experienced by the vaccine recipients.

Beginning next week, the DOH will jointly run the DOH Dengvaxia Operations Center with parents representing the United Parents Against Dengvaxia and the National Federation of Dengvaxia Victims Organization uniting under the common objective of looking after the long-term welfare of all children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

Secretary Duque re-assumed the DOH leadership in November 2017, pursuant to the appointment of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. This is his second term in the DOH, a second in the Department’s history.  Since then, he continues to pursue Universal Health Care reform agenda of the current Administration and focus on immediate health priorities which emerged since the start of his second term including the rehabilitation of Marawi, improving the vaccination coverage among infants and children, and addressing the health concerns of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.