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PNoy on Dengvaxia okay: It’s a judgment call

  • Written by CAMILLE P. BALAGTAS & MARLON PURIFICACION
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 487

IT was a judgment call for former President Benigno Aquino III as he admitted that the dengue problem
was his prime considerations.

Aquino, who was grilled during the hearing said he has a “clear conscience” and precisely why
he decided to appear in the Senate in order to clear the air, once and for all.
    
The former president testified yesterday before the Senate blue ribbon committee chaired by
Senator Richard Gordon and the Committee on Health and Demography chaired by Senator JV Ejercito at
the resumption of the investigation on the P3.5-billion procurement of Dengvaxia vaccines purchased
during his administration.
    
According to Aquino, there were several memos that was issued by then Health Secretary Enrique
Ona on the rise of dengue asking him to approve the anti-dengue vaccine citing the affected areas in
the National Capital Region, the Calabarzon and Central Luzon that need immediate action.
    
“Ang trabaho po namin ay gawin ang tama para sa mamamayan upang mapakalma sila at mabigyan
lunas ang problema ng  walang pangamba,” Aquino said, insisting that his action was based on the
situation during those times.
    
“Sumipa ng 20 beses and dengue sa Region 8 at nuong mga panahon na iyon ay inuumpisahan pa
lang ang libreng PhilHealth para sa lahat.  Nag-activate tayo ng dengue express lane sa mga ospital  
sa tulong ng National Prevention and Control Program, mosquito trap gamit ang fogging at pati
insecticide sa mga tinamaan na lugar.  Sinuma namin na tatayang gastos sa  2.8 million tatamaan kung
sakali ay aabot ng P58.2B na kakailangan kung sakali ng ating gobyerno sa problema ng dengue kasama na
ang blood transfusion kung sakali,” Aquino divulged as he defended his move to approve the Dengvaxia
vaccine during his term which cost the government P3.5 billion.
    
Based on reports, the former president met with Sanofi officials on Nov. 9, 2014, in Beijing,
China, and on Dec. 1, 2015, in Paris, France which he admitted.  Aquino said he attended several
meetings including COP 21 conference on Climate Change.
    
He also admitted meeting with Sanofi and other pharmaceutical companies which were known in
the industry for developing an anti-dengue vaccine.
    
Aquino said no one advised him against  Dengvaxia and his mind was set to solve the problem of
dengue
    
Aquino narrated that former Health Secretary Enrique Ona back in 2010 issued a memo which
confirmed that there was a growing number of dengue incidents in several areas in the NCR.
    
Based on his recollection,  Aquino said the memo was focused on five regions that have
alarming increases of dengue cases. There were about 2.8 million people facing the possibility of
becoming a dengue victim.
    
Alarmed by the figures submitted by then Health Secretary Ona, Aquino said his focus was to
find the right solution prompting him to look for a possible pharmaceutical company that can help
solve the problem considering that two out of five regions had an increasing number of victims
reaching a figure of 1,409.5 percent increase.
    
He also explained that the United States Food and Drug Authority conducted several tests and
trials which made them think that this Dengvaxia is the right solution for the dengue problem.

“Ang intindi natin sa Dengvaxia nagdaan ito sa US FDA ng tamang proseso kabilang na ang
discovery development, clinical research at safe market monitoring.  Sinabi nuon ng Sanofi na ready at
safe ang bakuna.  Maraming pangamba. Para sa akin, trabaho ng gobyerno ang pakalmahin ang tao,” Aquino
said.
    
Senator Gordon said he was surprised that the budget of this vaccine was given the much-needed
priority by the Aquino administration considering its fast break approval by the Department of Budget
and Management.
    
Gordon also pointed out that the budget for the procurement of the vaccines was not in the
General Appropriations Act of 2016.  He also asked Aquino to explain his two meetings with officials
of vaccine manufacturer Sanofi -- one in Paris and one in China -- before the French pharmaceutical
company cornered the dengue vaccines supply contract.
    
Gordon said it is a known fact that asking budget approval is not an easy thing but the budget
was released smoothly by the DBM before the end of the year.  Gordon further said Sanofi was already
in the country even before the bidding and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had immediately
approved it after Aquino’s meeting with Sanofi.
    
Aquino answered “Tama po ang sinabi niyo na mabilis ang naging aksyon namin dito.  If by
December 31 you do not utilize the fund ay mahihirapan ka na makahingi ng pondo para dito.  It will
require new sources of revenue which is difficult.  And if we fail to spend this before the year ends,
we will have to wait again for the next budget cycle.This vaccine is a prevention  and  this is not a
cure.”
    
Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said there was nothing illegal in the purchase of the
vaccine, explaining it has been a normal procedure for the DBM to utilize its funds under the expanded
program for immunization.
    
“My understanding was that there is a provision that allow such,” Abad said.
    
The Philippines approved the acquisition of Dengvaxia in December 2015, the first in Asia, and
the vaccination program began in April 2016.