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Whitewash, Robredo style

The ultimate goal is to make Dengvaxia available in the market again by restoring government approval and thus refurbish the image of the LP.

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Nobody has mentioned it until Vice President Leni Robredo issued her warning against “irresponsible noisemaking” on the Dengvaxia scare affecting public reception of the vaccine against the coronavirus disease when it is finally rolled out.

Placed in the context of current efforts to sanitize and rehabilitate the image of the anti-dengue vaccine, Robredo’s warning appears again with an eye on another election run.

The Dengvaxia fiasco, similar to the 2019 senatorial polls that resulted to a yellow shut out, will again be an issue in 2022 when the VP is expected to be the standard bearer

In her weekly radio show “Biserbisyong Leni,” Robredo lamented the fear of vaccines that developed due to what she termed as bloated allegations against Dengvaxia in the controversial 2016 P3.5 billion mass immunization program, which was believed to have been part of a fundraising campaign for the disastrous bid of the Liberal Party (LP) in 2016 to maintain its hold on government.

She advocated selective noisemaking, calling the one on Dengvaxia as not her cup of tea.

“It’s not bad to create noise, but the noisemaking was irresponsible. It’s like you influenced people to make wrong decisions, that’s what made it bad. I hope this doesn’t happen for (the vaccine for) COVID-19.”

The adverse public sentiment on mass immunization, however, was the result of perception that public officials exchanged safety for fast cash, which was what the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation concluded in the purchase of the vaccine from French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur.

In her program, she blamed the public outrage on the Dengvaxia controversy that led to the demand for reparation for victims as “affecting the spread of diseases which should have been eradicated.” She noted that polio was already eradicated but “since people doubted vaccines, it emerged again.”

Robredo did not mention anything about the rush to implement the mass immunization before the 2016 elections and prior to Sanofi’s 2017 admission that results of a clinical data analysis found that Dengvaxia is riskier for people not previously infected by the virus.

Sanofi ceded that around 10 percent of over 800,000 students who were immunized risked contracting a “severe disease” since they did not have a prior dengue infection. Only then, well after the polls, that the Department of Health stopped the nationwide dengue immunization program.

President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a more sober observation, saying he was open to making Dengvaxia available again if he would be convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks.

It was also Robredo who said the government should defer to those who would understand the efficacy of the formulation, claiming that doctors who handle infectious diseases have recommended to make the vaccine available voluntarily.

At the same time, she carried the line that the Dengvaxia issue has been politicized.

“If they don’t want to avail, then don’t. But those who want to should be allowed to do so,” Robredo said.

In the Senate investigations held, former President Noynoy Aquino and his Health secretary Janette Garin carried the same line and said that “real experts” should be consulted regarding the use of the vaccine.

The ultimate goal is to make Dengvaxia available in the market again by restoring government approval and thus refurbish the image of the LP, which would in turn dispute the criminal charges filed against Noynoy, Garin and erstwhile Budget secretary Butch Abad for rushing the purchase of the vaccine for mass inoculation.

It was a good try for a cover up, but the public does not have a short memory for throwing children into a lions’ den just to obtain a political end.

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