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Pfizer worried about Dengvaxia mess, assured of gov’t protection – Galvez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 17) — American vaccine manufacturer Pfizer is worried it might suffer the same fate as pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. bared on Wednesday.

Galvez said Pfizer was assured that the government will be held liable should the drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine produce serious side effects after inoculation. The government has submitted the indemnification agreement to Pfizer to be able to receive at least 117,000 initial doses of its vaccines through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility.

“Ang Pfizer they just want the assurance because of the reason na nalaman nila na nagkaroon ng hablahan dito sa Dengvaxia,” Galvez said in a media briefing. “Nagkaroon kami ng explanation na as much as possible hindi mangyayari ‘yun.”

[Translation: Pfizer wants the assurance because they found out about lawsuits here surrounding Dengvaxia. We explained that it will not happen as much as possible.]

The official said they told Pfizer that the situation under the controversial Dengvaxia program is different from the government handling of the ongoing pandemic. He said that adults will be the target population in the COVID-19 inoculation program compared to the Dengvaxia vaccination in 2016, where over 800,000 young students were given shots. He added that consent, such as informing the person of possible side effects, will be required before one can be vaccinated.

French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur in November 2017 reported that Dengvaxia was found to be riskier for people not previously infected with the virus. It said around 10 percent of those who were immunized with Dengvaxia, but did not have a prior dengue infection, were in danger of contracting a “severe disease.” This prompted the Department of Health to stop the nationwide dengue immunization program.

Sanofi and several health officials faced charges for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over deaths allegedly linked to Dengvaxia. This controversy led to low vaccine confidence in the country that continues to hound the COVID-19 vaccination program.

But Galvez said the government will take responsibility in case of death or adverse reactions following immunization using Pfizer’s drugs. He said the request from Pfizer for an indemnity agreement is common with drugmakers to ensure that they will be shielded from lawsuits.

“Manufacturers lahat yan, especially Western countries na manufacturer, they want guarantee from suit… Ang gobyerno ay nag-guarantee na tayo ang may responsibility just in case may severe adverse effect,” he said.

[Translation: All manufacturers, especially Western manufacturers, they want guarantee from suit. The government guaranteed that it will be our responsibility should there be severe adverse effects.]

The Philippines has ongoing negotiations with Pfizer for 25 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. This is on top of nearly 2.4 million additional doses it hopes to receive through the COVAX facility. About 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines from the WHO were set to arrive in mid-February, but it was pushed back to an unknown date due to delays in the Philippines’ submission of the indemnity deal requirement. By CNN Philippines Staff