MANILA – Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III attended on Monday a House of Representatives hearing on a government dengue vaccination program which was implemented during his time in power.
Aquino, who ruled the country from 2010-2016, appeared before the committee which is investigating a dengue vaccination program that was suspended after Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the vaccine known as Dengvaxia, said that people who had not previously contracted dengue were at risk.
Aquino said he would have halted the inoculation program if he had known about the negative effects of the vaccine on people who had not previously been infected with dengue, the official Philippine News Agency said.
The former president, as well as Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, was called before the probe to “shed light on whether he authorized the realignment of the PHP 3.5-billion ($67.3 million) funds in procuring the Dengvaxia vaccines.”
The country became the first in the world to initiate a public, mass inoculation program against Dengue fever in April 2016.
The immunization drive was suspended in late 2017 after Sanofi Pasteur warned the drug could increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus.
The vaccine had already been administered to more than 800,000 children in high-risk areas.
The deaths of at least three children were linked to Dengvaxia, health undersecretary Enrique Domingo said earlier this month.
“They died of dengue even (though) they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Domingo said.
The vaccination campaign in the Philippines was launched in 2016 and was aimed at around 1 million students in some 6,000 public schools.
There are around 390 million dengue cases in the world every year, according to the WHO.