DOH urges people behind P3.5-B Dengvaxia purchase to explain side

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By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

The Department of Health (DOH) urged the people behind the procurement of the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine to explain their side to avoid any unnecessary speculation.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (AP Photo/Aaron Favila / MANILA BULLETIN)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (AP Photo/Aaron Favila / MANILA BULLETIN)

The DOH also seeks a refund of the said amount after the Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi-Pasteur revealed that the vaccine could worsen the effects of the disease on those who have not been exposed to the dengue virus.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the people behind the now controversial dengue immunization program should come forward, including former president Benigno Aquino III and former Health secretary Janet Garin.

“It’s really up to them if they would like to clarify several issues on the matter because they were the ones who make the very vital decision to procure the vaccines,” Duque said during the Task Force Bangon Marawi in Malacañang Friday.

If they don’t, “there will be too many speculations and sometimes there are innuendos, very toxic speculations,” he continued.

Duque also gave Aquino, Garin, and the other persons behind the now controversial program the benefit of the doubt, saying he is sure they did not intend to compromise public safety.

“I’m sure they actually meant well. I have no doubt that they did mean well. So to prevent that from snowballing, it might be good, sabihin na lang kung ano talaga (just to tell what really happened),” he said.

“The [former] President and the [former] Department head were guided based on the feedback and from the documentary evidence that the WHO guidelines were in fact followed,” he added.

The three guidelines Duque were referring to are: Giving the vaccines to communities where 70 percent of the population has been exposed to the dengue; the government should administer the vaccine to persons aged from 9 to 45; and that these persons should be given three vaccines to complete the program.

Garin in Paris

Meanwhile, Duque also gave Garin the benefit of the doubt when reports surfaced that the former Health secretary went to Paris, France to meet with the top honchos of Sanofi.

“Well, I heard that, too. But it’s hard to second-guess the former Secretary of Health and also the former President,” he said.

He added that it is too early to comment whether or not Aquino and Garin should be charged for this anomaly involving the dengue vaccines purchased last year.

Legal battle

Duque, despite reports that the government is planning to file a case against Sanofi, refused to divulge information related to the matter.

He said the Senate and the House of Representatives will be conducting their probe on the matter on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.

He also noted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct an in-depth probe on those who might be held accountable.

“We’ll have to wait as the investigation progresses. I’m sure that some of the information will be revealed,” Duque said.

“But the DOH, for its part, has to cooperate here. Certainly, it will provide the important, pertinent documents,” he added.

Origin of funds

Duque, given that he has only been Health Secretary for a month, was not also familiar on how the procurement of the vaccines was funded.

“Originally, the source was from the proceeds collected from the sin taxes. Yes. And I think there was a savings. It’s a kind of patchy information that I have, but there was the money, yes,” he said.

He said he does not think that the money used to acquire the vaccines was part of the DOH budget and stated that the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) was the one instructed to buy the vaccines.

“It’s not PCMC budget. It’s a budget that was given to PCMC because the instruction was for it to do the procurement. But we don’t know the originating fund,” he added.

“I’m sure that all of these will surface once the investigation is begun,” he continued.

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Source : https://news.mb.com.ph/?p=440401

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