MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said he plans to speak with President Rodrigo Duterte over the now-suspended P3.5-billion dengue immunization program, prompted by potential ill effects of vaccine Dengvaxia.
If granted to meet the President, Duque said he plans to discuss the Public Attorney's Office's (PAO) refusal to cooperate on the health department's investigation into deaths allegedly linked to the drug.
"Yes ... Ang sa akin naman, if they (PAO) continue to have a hardball decision, I will just continue to give evidence and results of a further study in good faith to bolster case buildup," the official said.
In November last year, drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted that its Dengvaxia vaccine may cause more severe dengue symptoms if given to those who had never contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
The admission prompted the government to suspend its nationwide dengue immunization program, under which some 830,000 children were injected with the drug.
The Department of Justice had tapped the PAO to conduct autopsies on deaths being linked to the vaccine. PAO said it has found a pattern leading to the death of at least 18 children who received Dengaxia.
The agency, however, refused to work with a panel of experts from state-run Philippine General Hospital, alleging that the latter has ties with Sanofi. The PGH experts tapped by the Department of Health have denied this.
Duque said his department is also planning to hire 500 more personnel to work as part of a monitoring team of children inoculated with Dengvaxia.
The health chief added that he plans to seek congressional approval to include the budget for the monitoring team in the succeeding years.
"...Yearly, after this isasama na natin sa budget sa susunod na budget call for 2019 para taunang suporta at mapondohan ang lahat ng programa tugon sa Dengvaxia immunization response," he said.
-- report from Kori Quintos, ABS-CBN News