PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Salvador Panelo yesterday said the legal process has started its course in the Dengvaxia controversy with the indictment of former Health Secretary Janette Garin and other officials.
“The wheels of justice have begun to grind for the victims and families of children who died allegedly because of the Dengvaxia vaccine with the Department of Justice (DoJ) finding probable cause to charge former officials responsible for the failed immunization program initiated during their time,” he said.
The DoJ indicted Garin and several others for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide in connection with the deaths of eight children allegedly due to the Dengvaxia vaccine.
In a statement on Friday, the DoJ said state prosecutors found Garin and the other respondents “exhibited ‘inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight’ when they facilitated, with undue haste, ‘the registration and purchase of Dengvaxia’ and used the vaccine in implementing a school-based dengue mass immunization program.”
The prosecutors also found cause to charge nine other officials from the Department of Health (DoH), two from the Food and Drug Administration, two from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and six from vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur for the same offense.
“Now that the legal process has taken its course, we wish everyone would finally stop politicizing the issue in the court of public opinion, noting that such exercise has only caused an unnecessary fear on the part of parents for good and creditworthy health programs of the government to the detriment of innocent children,” Panelo said.
The Palace official said defendants should welcome the “opportunity to clear their names and raise whatever defense they have in relation to the matter before a court of law.”
Panelo said the Palace “will not interfere in the proceedings save for the DoJ which is mandated by law to prosecute accused felons.”
“We hope that true justice and peace will be attained as this is the only way we can deliver proper closure to the victims of the vaccination initiative and their families,” he added.
The Dengvaxia vaccine was administered to some 830,000 schoolchildren from the National Capital Region, and Regions III, IV-A, and VII under the government’s dengue immunization program launched in April 2016.
Thirty-five complaints have been filed by parents of some schoolchildren who received the Dengvaxia vaccine and died of different causes. They were represented by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). The DoJ resolution covers nine of the 35 complaints.
If convicted, Garin and the other respondents face up to six years in prison for each of the accusations.
The government stopped the implementation of the Dengvaxia vaccine late 2017 after Sanofi warned that the vaccine might cause severe symptoms if given to those who did not have dengue before.