Why bankroll Dengvaxia when other vaccines lack funds, solon asks

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2019 08:50 AM

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The chairperson of the House of Representatives health committee questioned Thursday the previous administration's decision to roll out a P3.5 billion dengue vaccination drive in 2016 when the distribution of vaccines for other diseases supposedly lacked funds.

Only 70 to 80 percent of children across the country were fully immunized against diseases like measles when the Aquino government started distributing the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, said Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, citing the findings of a legislative probe into the issue.

French drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur warned in late 2017 that Dengvaxia might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the mosquito-borne virus, prompting the government to stop the drug's sale in the market and use in the national immunization program.

"Iyung mga vaccine-preventable diseases like iyung nangyayari ngayon na measles, diphtheria, tetanus, hindi pa talaga mapondohan ng national government iyung aktwal na pangangailangan ng populasyon," Tan told radio DZMM.

"Bakit talaga iyung pondo biglang doon inilagay sa dengue vaccine?" she added.

(Vaccine-preventable diseases like what is happening now with measles, diphtheria, tetanus, the actual needs of the population were not yet fully funded. Why were the funds suddenly allocated to the dengue vaccine?)

Helath experts, she said, had yet to confirm the efficacy of the Dengvaxia vaccine before it was administered to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren.

The vaccination drive was not included in the General Appropriations Act but was funded with state savings, making officials behind its distribution liable for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and technical malversation, said Tan.

The House health panel on Wednesday recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and several of his Cabinet secretaries

Aquino, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin were charged last year with plunder, malversation and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for their involvement in the Dengvaxia program.

Reports of alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia have spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.

Metro Manila and Central Luzon are currently grappling with outbreaks of the vaccine-preventable measles.

DZMM, 7 January 2019