Aquino defends dengue immunization program
Former President Benigno Aquino III defended his administration's purchase of dengue vaccines manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, which was pulled out of the market by the health department early this month after a warning from the manufacturer.
At least 800,000 children have been vaccinated at least one dose since the program started around the first quarter of 2016. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the immunization program has been halted and the department is monitoring those who have been vaccinated.
In a hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Thursday, Aquino said "Our choice was simple. Implement vaccine program now or wait and allow people to be exposed to risk."
Aquino said he made the decision in third week of December 2015 and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad looked for the P3.5 billion from savings in order to purchase Dengvaxia pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
"The bottomline is that when I got back home, I was told this was available but had to go through various processes before we could buy it," he said.
Aquino added he "did instruct (then Health) Secretary ( Janette) Garin that if everything is okay and the vaccine is really good, we have funds for this."
"It would have been good to put this item in the General Appropriations but there was no go-signal from the FDA and ( Philippine National Drug ) Formulary," said Aquino. "The end result is that if we didn't do this in time, the implementation of it will be in 2017, under the new administration.":
"And since there's a learning curve in a new administration, it might not have been implemented in 2017," he added.
Aquino said at that time "we didn't have any of these warnings then" about Dengvaxia.
He was referring to the precaution from Sanofi Pasteur in November 2017 that the vaccine may not work as efficiently on those who have not had dengue fever compared to those who had.
Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi president for Asia, told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that they revealed all the information about Dengvaxia when officials of the drug company met Aquino, Health Secretary Janette Garin and other cabinet members in Paris late in 2015.
An official from the Philippine National Drug Formulary said approval for Dengvaxia was given but with eight conditions.
Senator Richard Gordon said "the Dengvaxia bidding (was) done in a hurry."
Aquino said dengue cases had risen sharply when he assumed office in 2010, with then Health Secretary Enrique Ona saying that three strains of the disease were present. DMS