Ex-DOH Chief Garin welcomes civil suit over Dengvaxia mess

FORMER Philippine Health Secretary Janette Garin welcomed the civil case filed against her in connection with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday, February 5, filed a civil case against Garin, Sanofi Pasteur executives, and officials of distributor Zuellig Pharma for damages over the death of a child who received the dengue vaccine.

Garin said the complaint would serve as a good medium to clear their names from all allegations hurled against them.

“I welcome the case. It’s a good forum for me and for the others accused – and wrongly-accused – to air our side,” the former health secretary told reporters in a media briefing.

She also maintained that the implementation of the government’s mass immunization under her term was done in good faith.

“Sa lahat po nangyayayari, isa lang po yung pinanghahawakan ko: Yung pagsasalita ng katotohanan – yung nag-desisyon kami base sa burden ng dengue that time (In all that’s happening, I only hold true at one thing:  That I’m telling the truth – we made a decision based on the burden that dengue presented at that time),” Garin said.

She continued, “The desire to save lives, the desire to be of service – hindi po yung nasa gobyerno ka nakaupo ka lang hindi nagtatrabaho. Yan po ang ginawa namin at paninindigan ko yun (not just being in government and sitting there without doing your job. That’s what we did and I stand by it).

PAO filed a civil case against Garin and other officials before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City on behalf of the family of 10-year-old Anjielica Pestilos, whose death was allegedly triggered by the dengue vaccine.

Pestilos was among the 830,000 children who were administered with Sanofi’s Dengvaxia under the dengue immunization program launched by the administration of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2016, and was continued by his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte.

But late last year, the Department of Health (DOH) suspended the program following an analysis which found out that the vaccine could cause a more severe case of dengue when administered on a person who has not been previously infected with the virus.

Saddened

Also on Monday, Garin told media that she was “saddened” by the act of furious mothers who confronted her at the end of the this week’s House of Representatives hearing into the government’s dengue-immunization program.

A group of frustrated mothers confronted Garin after the hearing, demanding accountability and “medical intervention” for their children who were administered Dengvaxia. The women later told media that none of their children had died but supposedly started to fell ill since being vaccinated.

“Ikinalulungkot ko na humantong sa ganito (We are saddened that it has come to this). We’re very much willing to talk and to discuss about things,” Garin told reporters.

She added, “Nakakalungkot na humahantong sa pananakit, humahantong ito sa panghahampas, sa panununtok, kasi nawawala tuloy yung hinaing kung ano talaga ang katotohanan, ano ang problema (It’s sad that it has come to assault, striking, punching, because the complaint is lost in what’s really true, what the real problem is).”

Garin, however, questioned the intention of the group as they seemingly did not want a dialogue with her but was there to supposedly make a scene.

“Hindi ko kasi alam kung yung intensyon eh tototong makatulong sa tao o kung yung intensyon ay palakihin yung kwento at bigyan ng dagdag na kaba yung mga nanay (I don’t know if they really intend to help others or they intend to magnify the story and give more worries to mothers),” she said.

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