Former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial on Friday blamed the hasty procurement of the dengue vaccine for the public scare in the country after French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur announced possible risks caused by the drug.
"Sa ibang bansa kung saan minamarket ang Dengvaxia, hindi nagkagulo kasi maganda yung social preparation. Naipaliwanag ng mabuti sa mga tao ano yung risk kaya nung i-announce 'yung risk, hindi sila natakot, hindi sila kinabahan," Ubial said in an interview on DZMM.
"Usually ang social preparation 1-2 years. Ang nangyari dito 2 buwan," she said.
Ubial said the procurement may have been railroaded to launch the dengue vaccination program in time for the 2016 elections.
The procurement of P3.5 billion worth of dengue vaccines for 1 million Filipino public school students was approved under the term of former Health Secretary Janette Garin.
The first doses were administered to the first batch of beneficiaries in April 2016, a month before the May presidential elections.
"Ang main issue dito, there is an unwritten rule na hindi kami nag i-introduce ng vaccine during election year. Kahit gaano kaganda yang vaccine na yan, magkakaroon na ng kulay at duda yung tao kung ano yung motive kung bakit i-introduce yung vaccine," she said.
Last month, Sanofi admitted that giving the vaccine to those who never had dengue may lead to "more severe cases."
Ubial said she was not able to effectively object against the dengue immunization program as she was assigned to Central Visayas when the DOH was discussing the vaccine.
"During the time na dinidiscuss yung dengue vaccine, nandoon po ako sa Tacloban na assign sa Eastern Visayas sa regional medical center as chief of hospital. Wala akong masters in hospital administration. Hindi ako nagkaroon ng karanasan na magpatakbo ng ospital. Hindi ako nagtrabaho sa isang ospital. Nagtaka ako bakit ako na-assign doon," she said.
Prior to Sanofi's announcement, Garin's husband - Iloilo Rep. Oscar Garin - asked for more funding for the Dengvaxia under the 2018 budget, Ubial said.
Ubial, who was removed from her post as health chief after failing to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments, also slammed House Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia and Rep. Garin for trying to hold the Health department's budget hostage in previous deliberations.
"Tini-threaten (nila) na ide-defer ang DOH budget kung hindi ie-expand ang dengue vaccine program," she said.
Ubial added that her confirmation as the head of the Health Department was "prejudiced" by the controversial dengue immunization program.
"I’m very positive about that, that my confirmation was prejudiced by this particular issue. That I strongly and openly opposed at the start and then when I was Health Secretary I tried to do damage control," she said.
Janette Garin meanwhile clarified that her husband was not a member of the Commission on Appointments.
"For the record, Oscar Garin Jr. is my husband at hindi po siya member ng Commission on Appointments," Garin said.