Criminal

At first blush, the adage, “Haste Makes Waste,” seems enough to describe how quickly the previous administration had implemented early last year a massive dengue immunization program. Health officials then, led by Secretary Janette Garin, had purchased 300 million doses of the vaccine—Dengvaxia—for a whopping P3.5 billion.

Comes now Dengvaxia’s supplier, Sanofi Pasteur, announcing that a new study says the vaccine could spell disaster in some cases.

In a news report, the French multinational admitted: “For those not previously infected by dengue virus ... the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection.”

But to date, more than 730,000 children in various public schools in Luzon have been administered with the first of a series of vaccinations.

The drug has been released.

It may be too late, but Health Secretary Francisco Duque III lost no time to suspend the immunization drive, pending the review of experts in the field, including officials from the World Health Organization. He said all those who received the drug would henceforth be monitored closely by the DOH—a tall order considering the sheer number of recipients—lest an outbreak occurs.

How and why Sanofi Pasteur proceeded to sell the vaccine to the DOH despite an apparently incomplete efficacy assessment can only be a matter of conjecture at this point.

But the more critical question that begs to be answered is this: Why did the previous health officials rush to purchase P3.5 billion worth of anti-dengue vaccines, despite being aware, according to concerned medical officials then, that a study on it had yet to be completed?

Were they worried about the fact that in the first six months of last year, more than 84,000 dengue cases were reported in the country, an alarming 15.8 percent increase compared to 2015? If so, they could have been more circumspect in choosing the right drug, exercised due diligence in examining the product, and helped ensure the safety and wellbeing of the young recipients.

Were they, or some of them, out to fleece the Department, 2016 being an election year and a good time as any to beef up a war chest? If so, the spoils of such a brazen act couldn’t have resurfaced at such a worst time, when the country’s leadership is acutely averse to and unforgiving over corruption.

If so, all that haste may have deliberately—and criminally—amounted to much more than just a waste of time, resources, and vaccine.

Duque reserved comment on that regard, except to say that an investigation is in order.

Indeed, it is. And it better be soon.