MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he was open to making Dengvaxia available again in the Philippines, after the health department declared a dengue epidemic.
“If it means saving people’s lives, I would go for it,” he told reporters at Malacañang.
Government earlier this week declared a national dengue epidemic due to the rising cases of the mosquito-borne disease in parts of the country.
As of July 20 this year, the Department of Health recorded 146,062 cases of dengue, with 622 deaths. The figure was twice the 73,818 cases recorded during the same period last year.
Duterte however clarified that he would wait for the advice of local health experts on the matter before making a decision.
“I am open to the use of Dengvaxia again. Maraming patay (Many people are dead). It’s an epidemic. Now, compare it vis-à-vis with those who died, I want to hear the words of the experts, doctors,” he said.
The Food and Drug Administration permanently revoked the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia in February, about a year after its maker, Sanofi Pasteur admitted that the drug can cause more severe symptoms among those who have not had dengue. Sanofi, however, has appealed the revocation.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque on Wednesday said the government is studying an appeal to allow the French pharmaceutical firm to put Dengvaxia back in the Philippine market. He, however, ruled out using the drug to combat the ongoing epidemic.
Reports of alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia have spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.
Several cases have also been filed over the deaths of some who were injected with Dengvaxia, but it has not been established whether the fatalities were caused by the vaccine.
The Makabayan bloc earlier reminded the Duterte Administration that the Dengvaxia vaccination program was not a quick fix.
”Hindi silver bullet ito po ay nabanggit na ng iba't ibang eksperto na hindi 'yan sa kagyat makakatulong sa pagpapababa ng dami ng mga kaso ng dengue,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite Jr.
- With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News