The Gabriela city chapters of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela demanded accountability in the ‘possibly hazardous’ dengue mass immunization program of the government that were administered to more than 750,000 public school children, mostly from the Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon.
The Department of Health (DOH) recently suspended its dengue vaccination program following the disclosure of Sanofi, developer and distributor of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, on November 29 that the vaccination poses severe risks to those who have not been previously infected by the disease.
“Heads must roll! Those responsible in putting the lives of more than 750,000 Filipino children must be held liable. Hundreds of thousands of parents are now worried about the safety of their children because of this failed government project that put the lives of our children at risk,” says Arlene Malig-On of Gabriela Malabon City chapter.
The government under the term of President Benigno Aquino III, through his Health Secretary Janet Garin, procured P3.5B worth of dengue vaccines and started implementing it in 2016. The implementation continued under the Duterte administration—despite the expressed doubts of then Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial—until the suspension of the program this week. There are still tens of thousands of vaccine shots left from the procurement.
“It is hard for us not to think that our children were treated ‘guinea pigs’ and ‘laboratory rats’ that were used for experimental purposes. Majority of those who were vaccinated came from poor families. We may be poor, but we do not deserve this inhumane treatment,” says Leticia Castillo, Gabriela Valenzuela City Chapter spokesperson.
In a report, Senator Sherwin ‘Win’ Gatchalian revealed that at least 15,000 students in Valenzuela City have been vaccinated under the program. Meanwhile, the Caloocan City Government website stated that they targeted 25,000 students to be vaccinated under the program, and at least 7,000 students were vaccinated as of September 2016.
Mary Jane Magbanua of Gabriela Caloocan City said, “We wonder why does the government is on the rush in implementing the Dengvaxia project even though its effects remain unproven? Who really gained from this project? Clearly, Sanofi and those in the government benefited from the P3.5 biliion budget allocation for this project and not the Filipino people. What enrages us more is that this project further pushed us to danger.”
The women’s group also slammed DOH Secretary Francisco Duque on his claim that only 10% of those vaccinated were affected by the Sanofi’s findings.
“We wonder where does Secretary Duque get his data that the 90% of the children they vaccinated already had dengue? They can’t even show a master list of the children who were victimized by this project,” says Norma Osete of Gabriela Navotas City chapter.
The local chapters of Gabriela are coordinating with their local governments and the teachers who implemented the vaccination, and the families of the affected students to study their next steps. The group said they are planning to hold protest actions, and they are exploring the possibility of a class suit against Sanofi and the government’s lead implementers of the immunization program.