DOJ finds probable cause to charge Garin, others with reckless imprudence over Dengvaxia mess

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found probable cause to charge health officials with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the controversial Dengvaxia mess.

In a resolution dated February 11 and released on Friday, the DOJ panel said it found probable cause to indict former Health Secretary Janette Garin and nine other Department of Health (DOH) officials for violation of Article 365, in relation to Article 49 of the Revised Penal Code.

 

The DOJ panel said it found Garin and other respondents to have exhibited an "inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight when they facilitated, with undue haste, the registration and purchase of Dengvaxia, and used the vaccine in implementing a school-based dengue mass immunization program."

The panel added it found sufficient evidence that Garin and other respondents "circumvented" various regulations in the purchase of the ₱3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine. It concluded that the respondents "totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine."

Aside from Health officials, the resolution also indicted officers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.

Palace won't interfere

In a statement released Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Malacañang will be hands-off the proceedings.

"We will not interfere in the proceedings save for the DOJ which is mandated by law to prosecute accused felons," Panelo said.

He said the Palace welcomed the developments on the issue and the defendants should see it as an opportunity to clear their names.

"Now that the legal process has taken its course, we wish everyone would finally stop politicizing the issue in the court of public opinion, nothing that such exercise has only caused an unnecessary fear on the part of parents for good and creditworthy health programs of the government to the detriment of innocent children," he added.

If convicted, Garin and the other respondents could face a penalty of up to six years of imprisonment.

Dengvaxia was administered to over 800,000 students in a school-based government immunization program in April 2016. Sanofi Pasteur in November 2017, announced the vaccine posed potentially severe dengue risks among those with no dengue history. The resulting panic prompted the Health Department to suspend its program.

The vaccine has been permanently banned in the Philippine after the FDA in February revoked its Certificate of Product Registration.

Over 100 deaths have been linked to the anti-dengue vaccine, but experts have said there are no findings that the drug has caused these deaths.

Meanwhile, Garin said she will respect the decision of the panel.

"I am more concerned with the impact of the decision on the already suffering DOH IMMUNIZATION program. People might think again that there is something wrong with the vaccine which is NOT TRUE," Garin said in a statement.

She added the criminal case remains "very weak" as there is no absolute evidence linking Dengvaxia to the deaths.

"We are confident in the dismissal of this case. Twenty countries plus the European Union and the US are recommending its use. The World Health Organization repeatedly said the vaccine does not cause deaths," the former Health Secretary added.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Anjo Alimario and Carolyn Bonquin, and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.