'Binalot nila ng intriga, takot': Aquino blames opponents for vaccine scare, measles outbreak

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2019 04:22 AM

MANILA - Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III blamed his political opponents for putting the country's immunization programs at risk, amid the measles outbreak in many parts of the Philippines.

"Binalot nila ng intriga, pagdududa, at takot ang mga bakuna... kaya pati ang bakunang gaya ng para sa tigdas ay inaayawan," he said in a statement released Friday.

Aquino's remark came after a House panel recommended Wednesday the filing of criminal and administrative charges against him and several others over the use of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in the national immunization program.

"Maliwanag po, may mga kalaban tayo sa politika, na laging sasabihing mali ang ating ginawa o 'di ginawa. Gumagawa sila ng isyu kung saan dapat walang isyu," he said.

Aquino reiterated that the benefits of Dengvaxia that was administered to more than 830,000 children outweighed the risks.

Based on his calculation, he said only 17 or .02 percent could have been affected by severe dengue while more than 830,000 were given protection from the vaccine.

No proof, he said, has also been presented that several children died after receiving the vaccine. According to findings, the cause of death were viral encephalitis, electrolyte imbalance, and acute respiratory failure.

Talks of the controversial vaccine, Aquino recalled, started when former Health Secretary Enrique Ona introduced it to him. The health department also saw a spike of dengue cases - from 121,580 in 2014 to 200,415 in 2015.

"Sa mga naging briefing din ni Sec. Ona, binanggit niya na may bakuna raw na 'under development,' na layong tumugon sa 4 na serotype ng dengue," he said.

The former President said he was made to understand that Dengvaxia created by Sanofi Pasteur underwent stringent procedures to determine its safety and efficacy. No one also told him about concerns on the vaccine, disputing a committee report that he failed to notice the warning by choosing to listen on government experts.

"Sa pahayag kong ito, walang sinumang sumalungat o nagsabing 'Ako, nagbabala ako sa iyo.' Ngayon po, kung walang kumontra, ibig-sabihin, tanggap nilang totoo ang sinabi ko. Saan ngayon galing ang sinasabi sa Committee Report?" he said.

Aquino also said the budget of the dengue vaccination drive came from the 2015 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF).

He said Section 69 of the General Appropriations Act 2015 states that the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, Heads of Constitution Commissions, and the Ombudsman are "hereby authorized to use savings in their respective appropriations to augment actual deficiencies incurred for the current year in any item of their respective appropriations. An item of appropriations shall pertain to the amount appropriated for a program, activity or project authorized in this Act."

The House health panel questioned Thursday the Aquino administration's decision to roll out the P3.5 billion drive when the distribution of vaccines for other diseases supposedly lacked funds.

Aquino said that if they didn't implement the dengue immunization program, hundreds of thousands would be questioning him instead.

"Kung 'di tayo nagsipag, hindi natin sinagad ang pagkamit ng benepisyo ng bakuna nung 2015, marahil, ngayon naman, sinasagot ko ang higit 830,000 na nagtatanong: “May bakuna na pala, bakit pinagkait mo pa?” he said.

Aquino said he will leave it to the public on who is telling the truth. "Kayo na po ang humusga," he said.

The dengue vaccination program was scrapped after the French drug-maker warned in late 2017 that Dengvaxia might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the mosquito-borne virus.

Records from DOH showed that more than 830,000 children in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas were inoculated under the program.