French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi on Monday told the Philippines it would not refund the cost of used doses of a dengue vaccine after the vaccination programme was suspended over health concerns.
The Philippines had asked Sanofi to refund a total 3.2 billion pesos (US$62 million) spent on the public vaccination programme after the company said the vaccine could worsen symptoms in some cases, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
Sanofi last month agreed to reimburse the Philippine government 1.6 billion pesos (US$31 million) for leftover doses of Dengvaxia. But it said Monday it would not pay for doses that were already used.
“Agreeing to refund the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case,” Sanofi Pasteur said in a statement.
The refund offered for unused Dengvaxia doses was not due to safety or quality concerns but simply to show that the company was cooperating with Manila, it added.
Dengue or haemorrhagic fever, the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus, infects an estimated 390 million people in more than 120 countries each year, killing more than 25,000, according to the World Health Organisation.
The Philippines has one of the highest dengue fatality rates in the world, with 732 deaths last year, the country’s health department said.
The country launched the world’s first public dengue vaccination programme in 2016, but suspended it and stopped the sale of Dengvaxia in December after Sanofi warned that the injections could make symptoms worse for vaccinated people who contracted the disease for the first time.
The announcement caused panic among parents of some 830,000 schoolchildren vaccinated under the public dengue immunisation programme in 2016 and 2017, the health department said.
The government is also investigating Dengvaxia’s alleged role in the deaths of at least 14 vaccinated children.
Health officials on Friday said public immunisation programmes for other preventable diseases were suffering in the wake of the panic, with many parents wary of getting their children vaccinated following the controversy.
However Sanofi has insisted that no one has been proven to have died from Dengvaxia.
On Monday, Sanofi rejected a separate health department request to set up an indemnification fund to cover the hospitalisation and treatment for vaccinated children who contract severe dengue.
“Should there be any case of injury due to dengue that has been demonstrated by credible scientific evidence to be causally related to vaccination, we will assume responsibility,” it said.
Health department officials were at a congressional inquiry into the vaccine’s safety on Monday.