DOH to demand from Sanofi full refund of P3.5 billion spent on Dengvaxia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 8) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it will demand the full refund for the Dengvaxia vaccine it bought from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said they will ask manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur to give back the P3.5 billion the Philippine government fully paid for anti-dengue vaccines in 2016, following the health risks from Dengvaxia. In addition, DOH will demand Sanofi to cover the hospitalization of those who will contract severe dengue from the vaccine.

"We will demand the refund of the PhP 3.5 billion paid for the Dengvaxia, and that Sanofi set up an indemnification fund to cover the hospitalization and medical treatment for all children who might have severe dengue," Duque said in a media briefing.

Duque also said PhilHealth is ready to cover the expenses of any child who was vaccinated and may be hospitalized for severe dengue. PhilHealth can cover up to P16,000 for severe dengue which includes hospital and physician fees.

On Thursday, Duque told CNN Philippines they will return to Sanofi the almost 800,000 unusued vaccines worth over P1 billion.

DOH said it has also created a task force to closely monitor and attend to the health issues of over 800,000 children immunized with the vaccine.

"This shall guide the Department of Health in responding to the safety concerns relevant to the use of this vaccine and how to proceed with the dengue program to ensure safeguards and prevent similar incidents in the future," Duque said.

Members of the task force come from the DOH, Food and Drug Administration, PhilHealth, and the National Children's Hospital.

The task force will also have a legal team to look into the accountability of Sanofi Pasteur which claimed "that the vaccine was safe and effective for all individuals aged 9 to 45 years old," Duque said.

"The French pharmaceutical giant later on acknowledged that the vaccine is not recommended for people who have had no prior dengue infection lest the vaccination increases the risk of severe dengue. As this disclosure was made only after the health department had already vaccinated thousands of schoolchildren, the news created a scare among parents and the Filipino public," the health secretary added.

A draft of the House Committee on Health report in 2016 said that there were 997 reported cases of individuals who experienced adverse events following immunization. Thirty of them required hospitalization.

Adverse events, according to Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, refer to any physical or medical event which may happen to a child. He also said that there were nine deaths but these were not vaccine-related.

More than 800,000 children were vaccinated under a government program launched in 2016. Health officials earlier said the number of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia could be more, as the Health Department waits for its other regional offices to report.

CNN Philippines' Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.