MANILA - The Department of Health on Friday said it continued to provide vaccines against pneumonia and other related diseases although additional procurement is on hold.
“The Department of Health (DOH) National Immunization Program (NIP) continues to provide pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), particularly PCV13, as part of its routine immunization contrary to circulating reports,” the DOH said in a press release.
The agency said this following claims by a group that it should look into the cost-effectiveness of PCV10 versus PCV13 and undergo public bidding as it is about to sign a new contract for vaccine stocks for the year.
In the statement, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he already asked the Health Technology Assessment Council, which is mandated to review existing health programs of the DOH and PhilHealth in accordance with the Universal Health Care Law, “to review the NIP (National Immunization Program) in particular the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program in light of scientific evidence and the significant budget impact of this particular vaccine to the Department.”
“DOH is holding off the procurement of any PCV while waiting for HTAC to complete its assessment. At present, DOH continues to use PCV13 as part of the routine immunization and assures the public that stocks of the said vaccine are ample,” the agency said.
“While we want our Filipino children to be protected against any pneumococcal disease, we also want to ensure them of the highest quality of our vaccines,” Duque was quoted saying.
The PCV, through the DOH, is given to the public for free to protect “children, pregnant women and the elderly against diseases caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis."
The agency explained that it first procured PCV10, which protects against 10 strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae in 2012. PCV13, on the other hand, protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.
“However, in 2014, DOH shifted to the tridecavalent PVC13, after two cost-effectiveness studies conducted by WHO showed that PCV 13 is more cost-effective than PCV 10,” DOH said. “Thus, the previous Formulary Executive Council recommended the inclusion of PCV 13 in the Philippine National Formulary."
It cited the World Health Organization paper saying that both vaccines have substantial impact against pneumonia and other diseases.
“Further, based on the WHO position paper, the choice of product to be used in a country should be based on various factors such as programmatic characteristics, vaccine supply, vaccine price, the local and regional prevalence of vaccine serotypes and antimicrobial resistance patterns,” DOH said.
Media reports earlier quoted a former Executive Director of Procurement Service of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System saying the DOH should review the cost-effectiveness of the two vaccines. The official claimed that the government will get the “same quality but at the lowest price.”
Other experts, however, disagree, saying PCV13 is “superior.”