'It was an institutional decision': Garin defends P3.4-B vaccine deal

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2017 01:46 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2017 03:53 PM

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MANILA - Former health secretary Janette Garin on Monday said pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur should be held liable if proven that it withheld information about the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. 

Speaking before a congressional inquiry, Garin said the Department of Health was not aware if Sanofi was withholding information about the vaccine before the P3.4 billion deal was approved. 

"Kung saka-sakali mang may impormasyong itinago ng Sanofi sa DOH, sino ba namang mag-aakala na magtatago sila ng impormasyon?" she said.

Garin said it was the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC) who made the actual purchase of Dengvaxia but said she knows that the hospitals' officials are not corrupt.

She also said the P3.4 billion procurement was the result of a decade of study after DOH consulted with medical experts and medical professionals about the vaccine. 

"Ang desisyon sa pagbili ng Dengvaxia ay resulta ng dekadang pag-aaral at pagplano ng DOH. It is an institutional decision to address a public need," she told senators.

A Reuters report earlier revealed key recommendations made by a DOH advisory body of doctors and pharmacologists were not heeded before the program was rolled out to 830,000 children.

Around P3.5 billion of government funds were used in the purchase of the vaccines. But health officials who testified in a congressional inquiry last year failed to clearly identify the source of the fund.

Garin earlier apologized for meeting with Sanofi officials in Paris in May 2015, months before the Dengue vaccine was approved for sale in the Philippines. 

She insisted there is no malice in her meeting with Sanofi officials in Paris, where the French drug-maker revealed the price of the vaccines to them.

"It's not a midnight deal. Everything was above board. The integrity management committee report of the DOH will show that. Inuulit ko. The report is there," she said. 

Although dengue is not the no. 1 cause of death in the country, Garin said the government is spending around P16 billion a year to combat the disease, prompting them to do something about it. 

Over 800,000 children were administered Dengvaxia before its maker, Sanofi Pasteur, revealed that the dengue vaccine may cause severe symptoms on those who had not been previously infected.

The former health secretary said she is willing to face the consequences if lawmakers find fault in her in connection with the dengue vaccine deal.