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SC orders gov't to answer petition vs. Dengvaxia mess



The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to comment on the mandamus petition filed by women’s and children’s groups seeking to compel their officials to provide free medical services and treatment to children injected with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

SC spokesman Theodore Te, in a briefing on Wednesday, announced the directive was issued following en banc session of the magistrates after having its recess due to holiday break.

Te said the High Court gave the respondents 10 days to comment on the petition filed by Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus and the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) on December 22.

Petitioners include more than 70 mothers of children who received the anti-dengue or the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Named as respondents on the petition are DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, then DILG Officer in Charge Catalino Cuy, and DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones. Also included in the list are DOH-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control program director Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, and Food and Drug Administrative (FDA) director general Nela Charade Puno.

The respondents will be represented by the Office of Solicitor General.

In a 42-page petition for mandamus, De Jesus and ARCSEA asked the SC to order the respondents to publicly disseminate on a regular basis the report of the task force created and designated to monitor and review the school-based immunization program involving Dengvaxia and submit the same to the House of Representatives and Senate committees on health for monitoring.

The petitioners said the government agencies should monitor children in all villages and regions who were injected with the vaccine.

The agencies should also provide free services including, but not limited to, medical check-ups, consultations, medical treatment and blood tests, the petitioners said.

The petitioners also asked that these free medical services be continued until it would have been determined and declared by competent medical and/or scientific experts that the threats brought by the Dengvaxi vaccine have been minimized or eliminated.

“These free medical services shall continue until it would have been determined and declared by competent medical and/or scientific experts that the threat/s brought about by the Dengvaxia vaccine have been minimized or eliminated,” the petitioners said.

The petitioners also asked the SC to direct the DOH, DepEd and DILG to create a registry of children who were administered with the vaccine to facilitate the delivery of free healthcare services.

The petitioners said that the Dengvaxia issue is “of transcendental importance” and that the SC must compel key government agencies to provide free medical services and treatment for those who might suffer from severe dengue or any of the determined side effects of the anti-dengue vaccine.

“The horrors and risks being posed right now by the vaccine, which has been haphazardly administered to around 800,000 children, should be enough for the justices to act with urgency on our petition,” De Jesus said.

De Jesus said that while the current number of petitioners is only 70, there is a possibility that they would have additional petitioners since there are more families seeking Gabriela’s help.

Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / PNA