Families target Philippine officials and Sanofi executives with request for criminal charges

The Dengvaxia debacle in the Philippines just keeps heating up, as more than 70 mothers whose children were vaccinated filed for criminal prosecution against former officials, including ex-President Benigno Aquino III, and Sanofi executives, CNN Philippines reported.

In their legal complaint, which asks prosecutors to consider criminal charges, the families targeted Aquino, former Department of Health (DOH) chief Janette Garin, M.D., and two other government officials, as well as five Sanofi executives including CEO Olivier Brandicourt and Asia-Pacific head Thomas Triomphe, according to the Philippine Star.

Invoking the country’s Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the families claim that the government officials are “guilty of gross inexcusable negligence” for rolling out the program without due diligence, according to the Philippine Star, adding that they gave “excessive accommodations” to the global drug giant. The families also questioned “whether [Aquino] acted in conspiracy with Sanofi officials” in purchasing about $70 million worth of Dengvaxia doses.

RELATED: Sanofi's Dengvaxia scrutiny mounts as Philippines slams brakes on dengue shots

In an emailed response, Sanofi spokesperson Jack Cox said the company hasn't directly seen the file, but that Sanofi has “acted according to Philippine laws and regulations to supply and sell the vaccine strictly according to the approved indication." The company will “continue to work co-operatively with health authorities in The Philippines to answer any additional questions they may have," he wrote.

Sanofi has stressed that its vaccine is safe. Sanofi's global medical head for vaccines, Su-Peing Ng, has told reporters that existing measures to test for previous dengue infection are lacking, but that the vaccine can still play a critical role in control efforts for a serious disease.

An Aquino spokesperson said the former president intends to answer the allegations.

“The former president’s attendance at the senate committee hearing has proven one thing: he takes accountability seriously and will continue to answer any and all allegations thrown at him,” the spokesperson said, according to the Philippine Star.

RELATED: Former Philippine president defends Dengvaxia program, but the questions aren't going away

The Dengvaxia scandal in the Philippines started early this month after Sanofi released results from a new analysis indicating that its vaccine could cause more serious infections if given to those who haven't previously encountered dengue. The country immediately stopped its mass vaccination program, and government officials took a tough tone with the company.

At a recent hearing, Aquino defended his decision to start the campaign by saying he didn’t receive any objections to using the Sanofi shot. Still, lawmakers questioned the “unbelievable haste and phenomenal speed” of the program’s approval and suggested that graft charges might lie ahead. The DOH estimated that 800,000 children received vaccinations before the halt.

In addition to requests for government legal action are calls for the vaccinemaker to refund the cost of Dengvaxia and set up a fund to cover the cost of serious Dengvaxia-related dengue cases, but an exec recently said it's too early to talk about compensation.