Before becoming the center of a nationwide health scandal, Dengvaxia was a groundbreaking vaccine that aimed to eradicate dengue, a disease Filipinos know all too well. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, commercially released the vaccine to 11 countries, including the Philippines, in 2016.
For this article, we are taking a closer look on Dengvaxia – from its promising launch to the revelation of Sanofi’s research and its aftermath. Below is a chronicle of two years’ worth of events that brought Sanofi, the DOH, and the Filipino youth into the eye of a national health crisis.
December 1, 2015 – Former President Benigno Aquino III met with the heads of Sanofi Pasteur for a courtesy call in Paris, France.
December 22, 2015 – Sanofi announced that the Philippine government has approved the market release of Dengvaxia in the country, making it the first nation in Asia to do so.
January 4, 2016 – Then-DOH Secretary Janette Garin said that the country was given a 34% discount by the manufacturer. The vaccine has cost the country a total of P3.5 billion worth of taxes.
January 5, 2016 – Garin stated the vaccination of 1,077,623 9-year-old public school students in NCR, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon will be implemented.
February 10, 2016 – The first batch of Dengvaxia arrived in the Philippines and was immediately made available for physicians.
March 18 to August 20, 2016 – Nearly a thousand children fell ill after their first shot of Dengvaxia. 4 children would die soon after.
March 28, 2016 – Garin assured the Filipino public that Dengvaxia has gone through comprehensive tests and is supported by both international experts and the WHO.
April 4, 2016 – The mass vaccination of more than a million public school children was launched. On the same day, Dr. Antonio Dans of the National Academy of Science and Technology warned that the vaccine could possibly lead to antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE).
April 11, 2016 – As the first death linked to Dengvaxia, an 11-year old boy died less than two weeks after receiving a dengue shot. DOH has since denied any correlation between the boy’s death and Dengvaxia.
June 15, 2016 – DOH announced its plans to expand the immunization to Central Visayas.
July 18, 2016 – As the new Health Secretary, Dr. Paulyn Ubial signed a resolution that hopes to delay the Dengvaxia program. She revealed that a panel of health experts concluded that the vaccine may pose potential health risks.
September 28, 2016 – Secretary Ubial backtracked her statement and issued a Certificate of Exemption for Dengvaxia, advertising its use despite the earlier red flags. When confronted about her shifting stance, she admitted that she had forgotten her July resolution.
October 5, 2016 – Angelina Tan, chairperson of the House committee on health, called for a probe on DOH’s school immunization program.
October 17, 2016 – Nueva Ecija’s 1st District Representative Estrellita Suansing filed a house resolution that called for an inquiry on Dengvaxia’s hasty purchase and questionable efficacy.
November 21, 2016 – The first probe conducted by the House health committee was cut short because of Garin’s absence. She’d later insist that she’ll cooperate with the probe if only “real experts speak“.
February 21, 2017 – A joint hearing was arranged by the House committees on health and public accountability to interrogate the seemingly fast-tracked purchase of the vaccine. Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep Doy Leachon also asked why P3.5 billion, which was not included in the national budget, was spent on a single vaccine.
July 26, 2017 – Former Secretary Garin was questioned by the House panel. She denied that the purchase and widespread distribution of Dengvaxia was done to earn votes for the 2016 elections.
October 24, 2017 – Both Sanofi and Watsons were fined with P5000 for promoting Dengvaxia. This goes against the Food and Drug Act of 2009 and Administrative Order No. 65.
November 7, 2017 – DOH Assistant Secretary Lyndon Lee Suy stated that it is unethical to stop Dengvaxia use before completing the recommended three doses.
November 29, 2017 – Sanofi announced that after its six years of research, data shows that Dengvaxia-vaccinated children who have yet to contract dengue are in danger of “more cases of severe disease”.
November 30, 2017 – DOH was flooded with public outrage for what was dubbed as the “biggest government funded clinical-trial-masked-as-a-public-health-program scam of an experimental drug in the history of the DOH.”
December 1, 2017 – Current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III suspended the dengue vaccination program.
December 5, 2017 – WHO clarified that it did not recommend the use of Dengvaxia for widespread vaccination.
December 8, 2017 – DOH formed a task force to probe Dengvaxia program.
December 11, 2017 – The Senate reopened the probe to interrogate Sanofi officials and ex-health secretary Garin.
December 14, 2017 – Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Ferdinand Topacio accuses Aquino of plunder and urges the Senate blue ribbon committee to probe his dealings with Sanofi.
December 29, 2017 – DOH disclosed that despite receiving the vaccine, 53 children still contracted dengue.
January 5, 2018 – Sanofi has been fined P100,000. Their vaccine clearance was also suspended.
January 6, 2018 – Specialists from UP-PGH were set to investigate the deaths of 14 children allegedly caused by the Dengvaxia vaccine.
This is a developing story. Please refresh page to read the latest updates on Sanofi and Dengvaxia in the Philippines.