Drugmaker Sanofi under fire over Dengvaxia reverse

The Philippines government has started investigations into the rollout of the dengue immunisation programme by the French drugmaker Sanofi, which ignored early warnings that its vaccine could put some people at heightened risk of a severe form of the disease.

The company's attitude has raised fears about the vaccine's safety and led to public anger over its use in 830,000 schoolchildren.

According to newly revealed evidence, confirmed recently by Sanofi's review of study data, in rare cases, Dengvaxia could backfire: If people who never had dengue are vaccinated and later become infected, the vaccine may provoke a much more severe form of the illness.

Sanofi, which spent decades developing the vaccine now has a massive public-relations problem on its hands, as politicians in the Philippines demand information about its advertising campaign and their government's aggressive push, against the advice of some experts, to vaccinate a million children.

The backlash has researchers worried, as they fear the development might stoke mistrust in vaccines around the globe. The vaccine, the first to combat dengue, a disease spread by mosquitoes that infects about 400 million people worldwide is approved in 19 countries. Around 500,000 people end up in  hospital due to the disease each year. It also kills 25,000, mostly in Latin America and South Asia.

Meanwhile, those responsible for the wrongdoing that led to the Dengvaxia vaccine mess should be made accountable even if the previous administration meant well when it administered the vaccine, Malacañang said yesterday. Malacañang Palace is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the Philippines in Manila, the capital city.

Presidential communications secretary Martin Andanar said those who erred should be made accountable because Filipinos who received the vaccine are not guinea pigs.

''What is important here is… those who are accountable should be accountable. The 800,000 people who received the vaccine is no joke. Even if the government meant well, let's say the past administration, there must be accountability,'' Andanar told radio station dzMM.