Action for Philippine children victims of vaccination scandal

The Dengvaxia scandal has caused a big stir in the Philippines. Dengvaxia is the name of a vaccine against dengue, a potentially deadly tropical disease. Sadly enough, the vaccine is not risk-free.
When it came to making profit, they were prepared to take more than a few risks

The Philippine government succumbed to the pressure of the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. In 2016, before all risks of the vaccine had been tested, the government decided to vaccinate all children from 9 years old en masse. The vaccine was supposed to save lives, but most of all looked like a means to satisfy Sanofi’s shareholders' appetite for profit.

TWHA spoke with Kat, policy influencer at the Council for Health and Development (CHD). She is coming to Belgium in March to testify on the struggle for public healthcare in the Philippines.

Kat: “The Philippine government has primarily focused on the poor population who immediately signed in on the free vaccination campaign. Schools were forced to send their pupils to vaccination centers. Parents were hardly given any information, and they were told to trust the government and the pharmaceutical company.”


Profit before public health

After a couple of months, it emerged that the vaccine was dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of children were already vaccinated, and an unknown number had died from the vaccinations. The entire government project turned out to be a violation of medical protocol.

CHD’s Kat also managed to examine Sanofi’s financial plans. “We have seen the profit projections they are setting out for 2018 and 2019 to keep their shareholders happy. It looks like they are prepared to take quite a few risks with Philippine public health to reach those targets.”

Our partner organization CHD immediately launched an investigation and mobilized its network and members to take action. They went out to protest at the Ministry of Health and at Sanofi’s office in the Philippine capital.

Students, health workers and parents of vaccinated children took to the streets. They demanded the vaccinations be stopped with slogans such as “Our children are not guinea pigs” and “Our health is more important than profit!” They got their rewards. Vaccinations ended in December 2017.

That is not the end of the story for CHD. “Parents of vaccinated children are scared and now distrust all vaccines. Teachers forced to bring their pupils to vaccination centers by the government are now feeling guilty,” Katharina says. “We want the victims’ families compensated and the government and company leaders to be brought to court”.

On Monday February 10, CHD held a press conference where a toxicologist showed scientific evidence of the vaccine’s unsafety. “To take further legal steps, a lot of additional research is needed. We want to create a list of all victims and need to prove Sanofi’s dengue vaccine caused their symptoms ”, Kat continues.

“That is why we keep raising awareness among the public. We explain what exactly is going on in an easily understandable manner and why it is important that people make themselves heard. But all this research and information campaigns cost money and time.”


Help the Philippine population keep health in their own hands

Do you support CHD and its struggle for the right to health? Your donation helps the Philippine population keep health in their own hands. To prevent corporate hunger for profit from jeopardizing public health.

With 40 euro CHD can stage a neighborhood debate on the consequences of privatization of healthcare. The discussion is a first step in planning collective actions to claim their rights.


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What is dengue?

Dengue is an infectious disease caused by a virus. In various tropical countries like the Philippines, it is an important cause of death, especially among children. For most patients it is a mild infection, but in some cases a severe, incurable disease develops.

The virus is transferred to humans by a mosquito. Prevention is mainly a matter of avoiding the virus to be transferred. As the number of dengue cases is rising rapidly around the world, the search for a vaccine has become a priority for big pharmaceutical companies.


The Dengvaxia scandal: a series of bad decisions since 2014

The Dengvaxia scandal has a firm hold on the Philippines these days. Our Philippine partner CHD took action for this unsafe vaccine’s victims. A summary of the key moments:

  • 2014: Sanofi completes clinical studies for Dengvaxia. First contact is established between the company and Philippine president Aquino.
  • January 2015: In the margin of the Paris climate conference president Aquino meets Sanofi executives. Ten days later the Philippine minister of health orders the budget administration to purchase three million doses.
  • Februari 2016: The Philippines are the first country in the world to launch the new vaccine.
  • Maart 2016: The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study pointing at possible risks for people who have never been confronted with dengue. WHO concludes additional research is needed.
  • April 2016: The Philippine government launches the dengue vaccination program at schools in priority areas. In the meantime, experts raise concerns in the media about the government rushing the program.
  • July 2016: WHO publishes a new study stating the vaccine can worsen a future infection in certain cases.
  • 2016-2017: More studies point to the vaccine’s risks.
  • November 2017: Sanofi itself concludes vaccination is not recommended for people who have never been confronted with the virus.
  • December 2017: TWHA’s partner organizations protest at the Philippine senate and Sanofi’s Manilla office.
  • December 2017: The Philippine minister of health decides to suspend the vaccination program.
  • March 2018: CHD, TWHA’s partner organization, stays committed to helping the Dengvaxia scandal’s victims.“We want the victims’ families compensated and the government and company leaders to be brought to court.”