The program “was a judgment call on the part of the previous administration in its effort to respond to what they call an alarming rise in dengue cases in the country,” the two committees said in a draft report presented yesterday during a meeting of the two panels.
House panels clear Noy on Dengvaxia
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Two committees of the House of Representatives are clearing former president Benigno Aquino III on the dengue vaccination program in 2016 and the use of the controversial vaccine Dengvaxia.

The program “was a judgment call on the part of the previous administration in its effort to respond to what they call an alarming rise in dengue cases in the country,” the two committees said in a draft report presented yesterday during a meeting of the two panels.            

“Indeed, the morbidity and mortality data at the time showed that dengue has become a worrisome monster killing hundreds of Filipinos… The action of the administration at the time to implement a dengue vaccination program was unquestionable,” the report stated.

The committee on good government and public accountability, and the committee on health, chaired by Reps. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur and Angelina Tan of Quezon, respectively, came up with their report after months of hearings.

They noted that the Duterte administration continued the program “and even expanded it to include Region VII (Central Visayas).”

The two panels would have approved their report were it not for the objection of Reps. Gabriel Bordado of Camarines Sur and Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, who asked for a day to read it. They rescheduled its approval for this morning.

Ironically, Bordado and Bag-ao are partymates of Aquino in the Liberal Party. Pimentel said the two could have read the 38-page report in just 30 minutes or one hour.

Despite clearing Aquino, the two committees said there was “undue haste in the procurement of the vaccines and the implementation of the dengue vaccination program, disregarding existing laws, rules and regulations.”

The report stated that the vaccination program became controversial after “a number of deaths (of children) occurred, with some sectors attributing them to the use of Dengvaxia.”

“However, there is no conclusive finding that Dengvaxia directly caused the death of inoculated patients. Cases have been filed and are pending before various jurisdictions to settle the issue,” it said.

In concluding that the program was hastily implemented, the two committees said the efficacy and safety of Dengvaxia were still “under review and study.”

“Sanofi (the manufacturer) asserts their drug is safe and effective and refused to accept otherwise. The World Health Organization did not dispute the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, although it pointed out the increased risk for sero-negative persons (those without prior dengue infection)… Dengvaxia is believed to be effective only on persons sero-positive (with prior dengue). Health Secretary (Francisco) Duque himself admitted that the vaccine has 66 percent efficacy,” they said.

The committees recommended the filing of “appropriate administrative and criminal cases against government officials and employees and private individuals” involved in the registration and procurement of Dengvaxia.

Aquino, former health secretary Janette Garin, former budget secretary Florencio Abad and other officials of the Aquino and Duterte administrations are facing charges in connection with the Dengvaxia controversy.

In a related development, House appropriations committee chairman and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles urged the Senate to approve the P1.2-billion supplemental budget for Dengvaxia victims the House had passed in June.

“My appeal is for senators to approve it before we go on recess this weekend. The Department of Health (DOH) has started patient checkups and field work in communities where children were administered Dengvaxia vaccination, so they need this budget that is exclusively allocated for such purpose,” he said.

In urging senators to approve the supplemental budget for dengue patients, Nograles said this would assure the victims’ families of “proper medical care and attention.”

He said part of the money would be used to seek out all 900,000 vaccinated children so that a “baseline study and medical profile could be established.”

“That is important in monitoring these children for symptoms of dengue or any ailment. Those who fall sick would have to be assisted, whether their sickness is related to Dengvaxia or not. It’s not their fault that they got sick in the first place,” he said. 

Nograles reminded the Senate that the funding issue “involves the health and lives of vaccinated schoolchildren.”

 

BENIGNO AQUINO III DENGVAXIA
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