Deputy minority leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin assailed the decision of the DOH to suspend the bidding for the PCV-13 vaccine purchase program worth P4.9 billion and allow a bidder offering PCV-10.
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DOH questioned on suspension of pneumonia vaccine program
(The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A House leader yesterday questioned the reported move of the Department of Health (DOH) to drop its current anti-pneumonia vaccine for children for a “weaker” vaccine.

Deputy minority leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin assailed the decision of the DOH to suspend the bidding for the PCV-13 vaccine purchase program worth P4.9 billion and allow a bidder offering PCV-10.

The DOH has been using PCV-13, which protects children from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, since 2014. PCV-10 covers only 10 types of bacteria.

Garin said purchasing PCV-10 is a “step backward” because it has less efficacy in preventing pneumonia among children aged five and below.

“During my time in DOH, we were using PCV-13 and you don’t usually go back (to PCV-10). That’s like getting a Betamax when you’re already using a VHS player,” the former health secretary said in an interview with The STAR.

Garin explained that PCV-13 is more effective in preventing pneumonia as it covers more bacteria than PCV-10.

“The main effect of PCV-10 is on otitis media. It may have effect on pneumonia but very minimal. PCV-13 is more effective against pneumonia,” she said.

“So when you talk about vaccinating children the question should be: which is more beneficial? Because you can cure otitis media using antibiotics, but pneumonia is deadly. When you vaccinate children you would like to address the disease with huge mortality and that is pneumonia,” she added.

Asked about the cost efficiency of PCV-13 compared to PCV-10, which could be a cheaper option for the government, Garin said the issue could be addressed by bargaining with pharmaceutical companies bidding for the supply.

“How much does the life of a child cost? That’s what we should consider. If the question is about cost, we can always ask for a lower price from suppliers,” she said.

Garin said she has yet to further study the matter so calling for a congressional inquiry may be premature at this point.

She made the statement after the DOH decided to suspend last month the bidding for a new supply of PCV-13, which would have been used this year.

A supplier of PCV-10 has reportedly entered the picture even if the vaccine is still up for testing.

DOH officials had announced that PCV-10 would go through further study by the Health Technology Assessment Council, an agency attached to the DOH that was created by the Universal Health Care Act of 2018.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million children five years and and below died of pneumonia or pneumonia-related diseases in 2015 alone.

In the Philippines, the ratio of deaths to children due to pneumonia is 23.4 per 100,000, making the country among 15 states that account for three-fourths or 75 percent of all childhood pneumonia cases, according to reports.

DOH JANETTE GARIN
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