The Dengvaxia controversy PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 February 2018 11:55

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

The Dengvaxia controversy is probably one of the most heart-wrenching issues our country has had to face in a long while.

Dengue poses a threat to many Filipinos and particularly   to the more susceptible- the young and the frail elderly. If one does not succumb to dengue it can still make one sick for days.  In response to the threat and to minimize this somewhat,  the move was taken by the DOH to begin an immunization program using a vaccine from a well-known pharmaceutical company, the Sanofi Pasteur. The first targets for the vaccination program were school children and some 800,000 of them were given the vaccine. Unfortunately, things went amiss

It turned out that the children who did not have dengue earlier and were given the vaccine came down with a more serious case of dengue than it would have been otherwise. Some 15  of them died. This created the anguish of the parents of the children  who died – would they have been kept safe if they had not been vaccinated?  The parents of those who had been vaccinated cannot help but be alarmed, wondering if their children will suffer the same fate.

The issue has now come up – who bears responsibility for the deaths?

But before the nation gets overly emotional on  the issue and add more anguish to a sad situation as it is, it is good to think things through. A suit filed against the DOH claims, among other things, that the decision to undertake the vaccination program was done in “bad faith”.

I think the  Dengvaxia situation  is a good example of what we might call the Law of Unintended Consequences. The objective of the Dengvaxia vaccination program was to protect children of school age from coming down with dengue when exposed to the bite of the mosquito vector of the  disease. No one can question the good intention here. Unfortunately analysis of the means to arrive at the objective was not rigorously carried out. Failing to evaluate the safety  of the vaccine for all the subjects  in the program, which was the intended objective, some 15  vaccinated children  died. This is the sad consequence but it was not the intention. Unless I am way off in my thinking, it cannot be said that the decision to undertake the vaccination program was done in bad faith.

What can be done for the 800 thousand or so children who might be at the same risk as the 15 who have died? And what can be done for the families of these 29 children? I believe these are the more urgent concerns at this time.

One more probe for congress to undertake and one more suit against the government officials concerned will bring about just more unintended consequences.