MANILA - The Department of Health is continuing its dengue vaccine immunization program despite several issues surrounding its procurement.
The Philippine government procured 3 million doses of Dengvaxia, the world's first dengue vaccine, in 2015 for P3 billion, intended to immunize one million public school students.
Today, less than half a million children have been vaccinated while an estimated P1.43 billion worth of vaccines continue to sit idly in storage.
"Ongoing po ang pagbabakuna natin sa Region 3, 4, 4A and NCR at ito ay babakunahan 491,909 patients na nabakunahan noong round 1. Nagkaroon ng round 2 October to December at ito po ay round 3 na from April to July 2017," Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said in a radio DZMM interview.
"Nasa period na kami ng assessment ng ating programa and way forward, tinitingnan po namin kung may mga balances na maiiwan, gagamitin pa rin ng Department of Health sa other areas with prevalence of dengue," she added.
Each patient needs three doses of the vaccine which will only be administered with the consent of the child's parents.
Ubial said that based on epidemiology experts' analysis, adverse effects following immunization are still within acceptable limits.
Many have questioned why the vaccine was purchased in haste.
Ubial, who raised the red flag against the vaccine during the hearing, said the procurement did not go through the standard practices.
She said that before a new vaccine is implemented in the immunization program, it needs to undergo health technology assessment done by the National Immunization Committee. It is also the committee, and not the health secretary, who recommends what vaccines the DOH should implement.
The vaccine procurement is now the subject of a congressional inquiry.
"I leave it up to the members of the committee investigating this particular case to make the conclusion. Kami po ay nagbigay lang ng datos sa kanila," she said.
"Sa ngayon po nagkaroon ng experts panel decision September or October last year na pwede na pong i expand yung immunization program natin sa other areas na mataas ang dengue incidence. Pwede na po siya sa ibang mga regions. Sa aming pagsusuri, Region 7 nga po yung isang area na pwedeng paggamitan nitong vaccine."
Dengue is spread through the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, persistent vomiting and bleeding following a fever, headache and rashes.