MANILA - Former Health Secretary Janette Garin denied Monday that the P3.4 billion procurement of the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia from French drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur was a midnight deal.
In a press conference Monday, Garin said talks about the procurement of the vaccines began in 2010 during the term of her predecessor Enrique Ona.
"Wala po itong korupsiyon. Wala itong hinahangad na pagmamadali dahil matagal na pong pinag-uusapan ang problema ng dengue," she said before attending a Senate probe into the vaccines.
Ona had earlier said that the Department of Health leadership is solely responsible for the dengue vaccine procurement after he left in December 2014, a year before the Philippines approved the sale of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Garin insisted that 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.
Sanofi earlier revealed that its dengue vaccine may cause more severe symptoms on those who had not been previously infected by the mosquito-borne disease.
Government data show the vaccine has been given to about 830,000 children in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas, as of November.
A Reuters report earlier revealed key recommendations made by a Philippines Department of Health (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 said those questioning Dengvaxia should wait for the recommendations of experts from the World Health Organization.
"Nananawagan kami na hintayin ang sasabihin ng mga eksperto sa Geneva dahil baka pinangungunahan natin. Tanungin natin ang mga totoong eksperto and let us start from there," she said.