Sanofi made to apologize in House hearing for Dengvaxia scare

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — Sanofi Pasteur Asia Pacific head Thomas Triomphe apologized Wednesday for the "confusion" over the company's advisory that sparked alarm over their dengue vaccine's safety.

Speaking at the House hearing on the issue, Triomphe apologized for the "misunderstanding" that arose after Sanofi said people who had not had dengue before may suffer "severe" disease if they contract the virus after receiving Dengvaxia.

"I am sorry if this has created confusion, and this is why i would like to clarify... to make sure that people can understand that there is no need to panic," Triomphe said.

The apology was prompted by a tense inquiry by SAGIP Party list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, who said he wanted Triomphe to apologize "profusely" and "honestly" to Filipinos.

A visibly upset Marcoleta scolded Triomphe for the panic dealt by the advisory. He questioned if Triomphe fully understood the impact of the issue on the Filipino community.

"Did it occur to you that such kind of a statement or advisory have caused sleepless nights, emotional distress and other similar emotional insecurities to our people," he asked Triomphe.

The government has vaccinated over 830,000 students with Dengvaxia, with an estimated 10 percent not having had dengue yet.

READ: TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

Following Dengvaxia's update, there has been public uproar over the possible effects of the vaccine on the children.

An apologetic Triomphe, meanwhile, responded saying he "fully understood" the concerns of the parents and the "community."

He said he wanted to clarify what the company meant when it used the term "severe disease."

"I wanted to fly here to share the fact that I do understand the concerns and I wanted to provide the fact to make sure that people understand that there is no reason to panic and I can substantiate that in details," he said.

Triomphe said the term came from the clinical trials, which were not under the monitoring of Sanofi Pasteur, but were conducted by an independent data monitoring committee.

"It is this protocol, started in 2011, that defines what is the definition of severe dengue and therefore what we need to use it for in the future after the trial is done," he said.

Triomphe also reiterated that Dengvaxia continues to be a safe and effective vaccine.

He said there are no contradictions between Sanofi's initial announcement on November 29, and its subsequent statements that, according to some lawmakers, appeared to downplay possible risks following the public uproar on the issue.

He insisted that Sanofi made it clear in its initial statement that there is only a 0.2 percent increased risk of getting dengue symptoms for patients who have not had dengue before.

In its opening statement at the Senate probe on the issue Monday, Triomphe also said persons who had not been infected with dengue before have a 0.2 percent increased risk of getting "traditional dengue symptoms" like fever, low platelet count, or nose or gum bleeding.

READ:  Sanofi clarifies 'misconceptions,' insists Dengvaxia 'safe'

Health secretary Francisco Duque, however, said at the House hearing it was obvious that Sanofi is backpedaling.

"They were trying to water down the impact of their initial advisory that created public uproar and so...napilitan kumambyo [You were forced to backpedal]," he said.

The House committees on good government and health reopened its inquiry on the health department's dengue immunization program a year after it held hearings on the matter from November to December 2016.

Triomphe also attended the Senate hearing on the issue Monday, where he said Dengvaxia continues to be a "safe" and "effective" drug.