Philippines plans to sue Sanofi over dengue vaccine

This file photo taken on April 4, 2016 shows a nurse showing vials of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, developed by French medical giant Sanofi, during a vaccination program at an elementary school in suburban Manila. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Philippines plans to sue Sanofi over dengue vaccine

MANILA: The Philippines intends to sue Sanofi after authorities suspended the pharmaceutical giant’s anti-dengue vaccine in response to the company warning the drug could lead to severe infections in some cases, the health secretary said Thursday.
Regulators froze the Philippines’ world-first public dengue immunization program last week and suspended all sales of the vaccine on Monday after Sanofi said Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for vaccinated people who contracted the disease for the first time.
“Eventually it’s the court of law that is going to decide in so far as the liability of Sanofi is concerned,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said on ABS-CBN television
The previous administration of president Benigno Aquino launched the vaccination program last year, making the Philippines the first nation to use Dengvaxia on a mass scale.
About 830,000 schoolchildren had received at least one dose of the vaccine, Duque said on Thursday. Previously the government said more than 733,000 people had been vaccinated.
Sanofi’s announcement last week caused great concern in the Philippines — where the mosquito-born disease is extremely prevalent.
The French company on Monday sought to allay concerns, saying Dengvaxia would not cause anyone who was immunized to die and would not cause a dengue infection.
However, Duque said Thursday Sanofi’s recent statements on Dengvaxia were “confusing.”
Duque said he may ask Sanofi to refund 1.4 billion pesos ($27.6 million) worth of unused Dengvaxia supplies.
He added the government might also demand Sanofi set up an “indemnity fund” to cover the hospitalization cost for children vaccinated under the public program who would fall ill.
Asked if the government would sue Sanofi if allegations of a lack of transparency were proved, Duque said: “I’m sure it’s going to get there.”
He added: “If it’s found out that (Sanofi) withheld material information that would have changed the outcome of all of these problems and the decision makers of the Department of Health in the previous administration, then they are liable.”
Duque said congressional hearings into the issue would start next week.
Sanofi said Thursday it was surprised by Duque’s remarks, adding it would continue to comply with Philippine authorities’ legal directives.
“Sanofi is a responsible company that has acted according to Philippine laws and regulations for the supply and sale of the vaccine according to the approved label in the country,” the company said in a statement emailed to AFP.


More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

Updated 19 October 2018
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More than half of Albanians would like to emigrate

  • The country’s potential migration has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018
  • Study shows those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US

TIRANA: More than half of Albania’s population would like to move to richer countries with better schooling, a study showed on Friday.
The study, led by Russell King of the University of Sussex and Albanian researcher Ilir Gedeshi, found that the country’s potential migration had grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
Since Albania toppled communism in 1991, more than 1.4 million Albanians, nearly half the current population of the Balkan country, have emigrated mostly to neighboring Italy and Greece and less to the Britain, Germany and the United States.
The study showed economic motives were still the main factor, but less so, and that those mulling migration now prefer Germany and the US.
Some 65,000 Albanians applied for asylum in Germany in 2015-16, with most of them rejected as it began welcoming Syrians fleeing war at home. Germany has since begun welcoming doctors and nurses, almost all new graduates.
As the global and economic crisis since 2008 hit the economies of Italy and Greece, home to about one million Albanians, remittances to Albania, key to alleviating poverty, shrunk by one third and 133,544 migrants came back home.
“The unemployed, unskilled and uneducated were potential migrants earlier. Now the skilled, the educated with a job and good economic standing want to migrate,” Gedeshi told Reuters.
“We also found out economic reasons mattered less because people now want to migrate for better education. A group also wants to leave because they see no future in Albania,” he added.
Given the rising educational profile of potential migrants, the study recommended Albania sought agreements on “managed skilled migration, always bearing in mind the dangers of brain and skills drain.”
“Efforts should also be made to improve and broaden the structure of employment and business opportunities in Albania so that fewer people are pessimistic about their future in Albania and see migration as the ‘only way out’,” it added.