Like Aquino, Garin denies knowing Sanofi's spotty record
MANILA, Philippines – Former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Janette Garin said she had no clue about the questionable record of Sanofi Pasteur, maker of the risky Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.
Garin explained her side in a Rappler Talk interview on Saturday, December 16, after appearing at a Senate probe into the now-suspended dengue vaccination program that made use of Dengvaxia.
The former secretary said she only learned about Sanofi's cases in privilege speeches on Dengvaxia last year, delivered by Senator Richard Gordon and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Doy Leachon.
"When this information was also conveyed to me in the congressional hearings – that was still last year – nagulat din po ako (I was also surprised) because I have never heard of such," Garin said on Rappler Talk.
The Senate had reopened its probe into the dengue vaccination program for public school students that Garin launched in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon in April 2016. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)
During the hearing, Gordon said the government should have observed a "certain amount" of due diligence in dealing with Sanofi given its record.
"I'm just saying that with all these signs, I would imagine that the government and Secretary Garin ought to have been more careful and circumspect in dealing with Sanofi," he said.
Garin pushed through with using Dengvaxia even if several public health experts questioned why the "premature" program was "too rushed."
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Formulary Executive Council also did not recommend that Dengvaxia be included in the national immunization program. (READ: P3.5B for dengue vaccination program 'too big' – economist)
Two years later, Sanofi said its vaccine can cause a person not infected by the virus prior to immunization to develop severe dengue symptom.
Current DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III already suspended the program, but not before more than 833,000 kids got the vaccine.
On Thursday, December 14, Gordon had asked former president Benigno Aquino III if he knew that Sanofi was found guilty of bribery, corruption, and false product claims.
Aquino said he was not informed.
Clueless like her boss
In her Rappler Talk interview on Saturday, Garin said she was also surprised, knowing that Sanofi had long been supplying DOH with vaccines for other diseases like polio and rabies in the past years.
"What I'm saying is that Sanofi Pasteur has been supplying vaccines not only to the Philippines but the rest of the world since time immemorial. 'Yan po ang pagkakaalam ko pagdating ko sa DOH (That's what I knew when I arrived at the DOH)," said Garin.
"So all of these allegations of bribery, corruption, tinanong ko ito nu'ng pumutok sa Kongreso. I wasn't office already at the time, so 'di ko na rin alam 'yong sagot nila," she added.
(So all of these allegations of bribery, corruption, I asked them about it when it came up in Congress. I wasn't office already at the time, so I also didn't know what their answers.)
Garin, however, refused to comment on Duque accusing Sanofi of "mental dishonesty" for not being forthright in disclosing enough information on Dengvaxia.
She said she would do so only when the WHO's Strategic Group of Experts finally completes its recommendation on Sanofi's advisory against its own vaccine.
Sanofi Asia Pacific head Thomas Triomphe maintained the company announced results of clinical studies on their product as soon as they are available.
He said Dengvaxia's permanent removal in the country would be a "disservice to the Filipino people." – Rappler.com