MANILA, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Friday that it has found probable cause to indict former Heath Secretary Janette Garin and several others in connection with the deaths of eight children that availed of Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.
The DOJ said in a statement that prosecutors found Garin and the other respondents "exhibited '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."
It said the panel of prosecutors, who conducted the preliminary investigation on the deaths of children allegedly linked to the administration of the Dengvaxia vaccine, has found probable cause to indict Garin and nine other officials from the Department of Health, along with officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines and French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur, for reckless imprudence resulting to homicide.
"The panel found sufficient evidence that Garin and the other respondents circumvented various regulations in the purchase of 3.5 billion pesos worth of Dengvaxia vaccine which constituted proof of their reckless imprudence," the statement read.
According to the DOJ, the panel further found that clinical trials for Dengvaxia were not yet completed when it was purchased and rolled out for use in the mass immunization program. But despite ongoing clinical trials, it said the FDA approved the vaccine's registration.
If convicted, the DOJ said Garin and the other respondents face a penalty of, among others, up to six years imprisonment for each count.
Dengvaxia was the first promising vaccine for dengue. The Philippine government launched a mass government-back immunization program in 2016 for public school children under then-health secretary Janette Garin and over 8150,000 Philippine students got Dengvaxia.
In November 2017, the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur issued an advisory warning of the risk posed by its Dengue vaccine to those without prior infection.
Sanofi Pasteur said in the latest finding, the Dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia can cause a more severe dengue infection among individuals who had not been previously infected with the dengue virus.
Philippine media then reported several children died due to the Dengue vaccine.
Philippine lawmakers, government officials and the public blamed that the key health officials during the former administration should be responsible for the mess.