House probes P3-B dengue vaccine procurement
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 7, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has opened an inquiry into the P3-billion purchase of dengue vaccines by the Department of Health (DOH) after the death of two pupils who received the first dose of the vaccine in April.

The investigation by the committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan started with the inquiry’s proponent, Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing, explaining why she sought the inquiry.

Suansing said the approval of the vaccines and the allocation of P3 billion to purchase them “seemed hasty, impulsive and might have been grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

She said the amount spent was not included in the national budget.

During the hearing, Tony Leachon, a member of the panel of dengue experts convened by the DOH to evaluate the vaccine, said they recommended in July 2016 the temporary discontinuation of the vaccination program until a further study to determine if the deaths of two pupils were related to their inoculation.

Leachon said the dengue vaccine program in schools “had misplaced priorities, procedural lapses, conflict of interest, among other irregularities.”

He questioned why the DOH spent its entire P3-billion funding for vaccination on a single vaccine.

He said the dengue vaccine purchase from pharmaceutical firm Sanofi arose from a meeting on Dec. 2, 2014 during a climate change conference in Paris between former president Benigno Aquino III and Sanofi executives.

He said then health secretary Janette Garin approved the procurement, which was made shortly before the May 2016 elections.

The transaction proceeded despite calls from the scientific community for a more lengthy study first to ensure the safety of beneficiaries, he added.

Antonio Miguel Dans, who represented the Philippine College of Physicians and National Academy of Science and Technology, supported the move to suspend the vaccination program pending further investigation on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo told the Tan committee that “necessary protocols have been followed and family consent was secured before the vaccine was administered to pupils.”

Sanofi Pasteur representatives Gerrard Paez and Anh Wartel assured the committee on health and the public that their vaccine is safe and efficacious.

But they admitted that their newly developed vaccine was used here on a massive scale for the first time.

The DOH has procured an initial two million doses of the dengue vaccine from Sanofi.

The health committee has set another hearing for Dec. 12. The panel expects Garin, who was abroad, to explain the P3-billion procurement.

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