Ubial seeks junking of raps over Dengvaxia controversy

MANILA Former Health secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial asked the Department of Justice on Friday to dismiss the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, which was filed against her by her predecessor, Janette P. Loreto-Garin, over the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine scandal.

In a 21-page counter affidavit filed before Assistant State Prosecutor Claire Pagayanan, Ubial, who was the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) from July 1, 2016 to October 10, 2017 after Garin, asked that the charges be dismissed.

"The instant complaint should thus be dismissed for being utterly baseless. It is clearly a malicious complaint motivated by complainant Garin's ill-will towards me that should not be countenanced," Ubial said, and insisting that she had sufficient basis to expand the dengue immunization program.

"During my time as DOH Secretary, the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunizations (WHO SAGE) advised against pre-vaccination sero status screening on account of the limitations of available tests and logistical challenges in implementing such. It was only after Sanofi-Pasteur's disclosure on Nov. 29, 2017 that the WHO and WHO SAGE changed its position on the matter and started recommending the use of pre-vaccination screening tests," she pointed out.

Two more criminal cases were filed Thursday before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Garin and 37 others over the deaths of schoolchildren inoculated with the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine.

The new complaints were filed by Sonia Guerra from Las PiAas City and Felix Noel and Honey Vazquez from Cardona, Rizal. They are the parents of schoolchildren Shiela Mae Guerra and Gillian Vasquez. The new cases brought to 29 the number of cases filed in connection with casualties arising from the dengue immunization program.

It is the fourth batch of cases initiated with the help of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), which has identified at least a hundred deaths linked to the vaccine.

Aside from Garin, charged were several health officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur and its distributor, Zuellig Pharma.

Garin and others were accused of negligence for their failure to obtain the consent of and inform the Dengvaxia recipients and their parents or families of the dangers and risks related to the vaccine.

PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta cited the failure of the health department under Garin to conduct proper screening of Dengvaxia recipients and implement active and aggressive monitoring and surveillance.

The DOJ, through a panel chaired by Assistant State Prosecutor Maria Emilia Victorio, has completed the preliminary investigation on the first batch of cases involving the deaths of schoolchildren Aejay Bautista, Angelica Pestilos, Lenard Baldonado, Zandro Colite, Abbie Hedia, Jansyn Bataan, Mark Axel Ebonia, Rey Justin Almagno, and Alexander Jaime.

A separate panel chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Dacanay is now conducting a preliminary investigation on the second batch of cases involving victims Clarissa Alcantara, Christine Mae De Guzman, Erico Leabres, Roshaine CariAo, Naomi Nimura, John Paul Rafael, Michael Tablate, and Christine Joy Asuncion.

The panel has set the final hearing on Dec. 3 before submitting the case for resolution. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency