Former DOH Secretary ready to face probe on dengue vaccine

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(File photo) Former Health Secretary Janette Garin

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — Amid the dengue vaccine controversy, the former chief of the Department of Health (DOH) said she is willing to face any investigation on the issue.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin in a statement on Monday said she will answer all questions asked of her "at the right time and in the appropriate forum."

"In the event that there will be authorities who will point culpability to me, I am ready to face the consequences," she said.

The country's dengue vaccination program was launched in April 2016 under the DOH, which was then headed by Garin. She was health secretary from February 2015 to June 2016.

The government on Monday launched an investigation on the ₱3.5 billion anti-dengue vaccination of the DOH, following the report of Sanofi Pasteur that its vaccine Dengvaxia poses risks to those who have not been previously infected by dengue but have been vaccinated. The DOH said this puts about 70,000 children at risk.

READ: DOJ orders probe of dengue vaccine program

Garin, however, said there was nothing erroneous in the way they carried out the implementation of the dengue vaccine program.

She added the program was "implemented in accordance with WHO (World Health Organization) guidance and recommendations."

"The dengue vaccination program plan started even before my time...We fully cooperated and consulted with WHO prior to the implementation of this program," she added.

The DOH in February 2016 launched Dengvaxia – the world's first vaccine against the deadly virus – as the Philippines was the only country where all three phases of the clinical development were conducted.

Months later, the WHO released its first paper on the dengue vaccine.

In it, the world health body recommended Dengvaxia be administered among children nine years old and up, in three doses and within a six-month interval.

It advised against using the vaccine among children aged 2-5 as this posed an increased risk of hospitalization.

Garin further stated the DOH wanted to find a solution to the virus, and began the vaccination program "which has until now been seen to be strongly beneficial to 9 out of 10 Filipinos."

RELATED: World's first dengue vaccine now available in PH

In 2016, the House of Representatives' Committee on Health invited Garin in a probe on the dengue vaccine, following the DOH's suspension of the dengue vaccination program.

The agency wanted another round of medical review, as there were reports that Dengvaxia has less than 50 percent protection against dengue serotypes 1 and 2, which are the most common circulating serotypes in the country.