MANILA - Former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday defended his administration's decision to implement the now suspended dengue immunization program.
In a press conference following a Senate hearing on the use of controversial vaccine Dengvaxia, Aquino explained that his administration decided to procure and use the drug produced by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur based on the available information at the time.
"It was incumbent upon us to be able to look for systems, procedures, means to protect the people. And around that time, the vaccine, good for all four strains, was being developed and nearing completion of all the steps before it could be made available for everybody," he told reporters.
Aquino made good on a promise to attend Thursday's legislative inquiry into his government's P3.4-billion dengue vaccination program that is now at the center of a health scare.
The Philippines earlier this month suspended the program after Sanofi issued a warning that Dengvaxia might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the mosquito-borne virus.
The drug has so far been given to 830,000 Filipino children.
During the hearing, the former President asserted that Dengvaxia passed local and international processes to ensure its efficacy and safety before it was used in his administration's immunization program.
"Dumating itong sitwasyon na may pagkakataon itong gobyerno na binibigyan tayong solusyon sa problema ng dengue, na tutugunan natin 'yung most vulnerable and the least able to deal with the sickness. Hindi natin pinilit na gamitin na natin 'to na hindi natapos ang proseso," he said.
"Kung hindi naman natin in-implement noon, baka naman ang sinasagot ko ngayon, 'bakit meron kayong pagkakataon na isalba ang mga kababayan natin, eh kayo’y nagtamad-tamaran, nagbagal-bagal, ayan may naospital pa'," he added.