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Gordon smells conspiracy in dengue vaccine deal

  • Written by MARLON PURIFICACION & RYAN PONCE PACPACO
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 524

SENATOR Richard Gordon smells conspiracy in the government’s procurement of P3.5-billion anti-dengue
vaccines from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur.

“Merong very, very strong signs na parang may conspiracy,” said Gordon in a radio interview
over dzBB.
    
“Ang sinasabi ko dito, is this needs-driven or supply-driven? Sa gobyerno, kapag nilalapitan
ka, nililigawan ka, nagsu-supply ng gamot ‘yan o ng isang gamit na hindi kailangan masyado ng
gobyerno,” added Gordon when asked if there was irregularity in the meeting between former Health
Secretary Janette Garin and Sanofi officials in Paris in May 2015.
    
The Gordon-led Senate blue ribbon committee will hold an investigation today with regards to
the P3.5-billion deal for Dengvaxia vaccines administered to at least 830,000 people by the DoH
without passing the requirements of the World Health Organization.
    
Gordon said Garin was invited to the hearing, though her attendance is still unsure due to the
death of her father.
    
The senator said the budget for the procurement of the vaccine was not even part of the
General Appropriations Act (GAA), and only the Philippines and Brazil, among all countries in the
world, put allocation for the vaccine.
    
This, he said, was because there is no assurance yet that the vaccine was safe to be
administered.
    
The senator said Garin’s May 2015 meeting with Sanofi Pasteur executives, though not irregular
on face value, creates a “circumstantial connection” leading to irregularity.
    
Gordon said the procurement of the dengue vaccine cannot be justified by the emergency need
for it.
    
Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, citing accountability, has expressed strong belief that
those who may have played a role in the procurement and implementation of the highly questionable
Dengvaxia vaccine could be considered “tigbak s’ya” or the Tagalog slang for dead.
    
At the end of the day, Alvarez said the long arm of the law will always catch up and apprehend
those who abuse their power and authority, adding there is a time of reckoning to make them
accountable.
    
“Well, ’yung may gawa niyan ay siguradong tigbak s’ya,” said Alvarez, explaining those who may
have involvement are considered doomed or in untenable situation because of the seriousness of the
problem that endangers many lives now. “Hindi na Dengvaxia ’yun, tigbak s’ya na.”
    
Because of the Senate inquiry, Alvarez said he is reluctant to support the plan of the House
committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel
to reopen its inquiry into the DoH’s P3.5-billion dengue fever immunization drive with the emergence
of new material information about Dengvaxia’s safety and the program’s dubious funding.
    
“Pinag-iisipan pa namin dahil kung mag-iimbestiga pa kasi ‘yung Senado ay mayroon na, parang
doble-doble na. Mayroon pa kaming inaatupag na impeachment ngayon, tapos may ibang mga panukalang
batas pa rin na kailangan naming tapusin bago tayo mag-Christmas break,” said Alvarez.
    
But in a statement, Pimentel said “we will renew our probe in light of Sanofi Pasteur’s
admission that Dengvaxia is unsafe for people who never had dengue fever, plus evidence that payments
for the supplies of the vaccine were not authorized in the 2016 General Appropriations Act.”
    
Ex-Health Sec. Janet Garin blamed her predecessor, Enrique Ona, for the Dengvaxia vaccine
controversy, saying it was the former secretary’s time when the campaign for vaccine started.
    
However, Ona said the country was just part of the Dengvaxia clinical trials when he was still
DoH secretary.
    
Pimentel said when his panel first investigated the DoH’s controversial school-based dengue
immunization program, Sanofi Pasteur had not yet acknowledged that Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for
vaccinated people who contracted the disease for the first time.
    
“Also at that time, the committee was not aware that funding for the vaccine was simply
sourced from budget savings, which might be illegal,” said Pimentel.
    
Based on the committee’s initial review, Pimentel said it was clear there was “unwarranted
haste” in getting Dengvaxia approved for use on Filipino children, and to adopt an aggressive
inoculation plan using the world’s first-ever licensed dengue vaccine.
    
“Many of us in the committee were in fact dumbfounded by the excessive rush to allow the use
of the vaccine and to get the program going,” said Pimentel.
    
“Questions were raised as to why we had to be the first country in the world to launch in
April 2016 a public inoculation plan against dengue, when the DoH could have simply waited for the
results of further studies as to the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia,” said Pimentel.