Duque confirmed as health chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2018 02:02 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2018 03:10 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III attends the House hearing on the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, on December 13, 2017. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - (UPDATE) Lawmakers on Wednesday affirmed the appointment of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was last year assigned to the post he first held years ago.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Duque to the health portfolio in October after the Commission on Appointments rejected Paulyn Ubial.

Duque previously served as health chief from June 2005 to January 2010 under then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was also chairman of the Civil Service Commission during the Aquino administration.

In a statement, Malacañang said it welcomes Duque's confirmation, expressing confidence that he "would be able to deliver better health programs and services as the DOH once again aims to regain the trust of our people through integrity, professionalism and good governance."

Months into his return to the health department, Duque suspended government's dengue immunization program for school children following the admission of drug manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur that its dengue vaccine Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms if given to those who had not contracted the mosquito-borne disease.

Sanofi paid an initial P1.16-billion refund for unused Dengvaxia doses last month, but it refused to pay for the used vials and set up an indemnity fund as requested by the government.

Duque has said the department would study if a possible violation of the Civil Code could lay the foundation for its planned legal action against the French drug maker. 

Some 830,000 public school students were inoculated with Dengvaxia under the campaign launched by the previous administration in 2015. 

At least 5 vaccine recipients died less than 6 months after receiving the drug, the Public Attorney's Office claimed, but local health experts said there was no evidence directly linking the vaccine to any of the 14 alleged deaths investigated by the Philippine General Hospital.