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Ona blames Garin in dengue vaccine mess

  • Written by Lee Ann P. Ducusin
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 621

FORMER Health Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday belied the statement of his successor, Janette Loreto-
Garin, that the negotiations for the controversial dengue vaccine started during his stint at the
Department of Health.

In a social media post, Ona said Sanofi Pasteur did request, almost annually, for meetings
with him during his term as Health Secretary but they were only to brief him on the status of the
clinical trial of their anti-dengue vaccine that was at that time undergoing phase three trial in
several countries in South America and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.
    
“Unfortunately, during all this time until the end of my term, the Sanofi staff, though
optimistic, never claimed that the vaccine was ready for use and only gave a vague projection to me of
the time when it may be ready for launching. We did not allocate any budget for dengue vaccine in 2016
since I considered this vaccine as still at its developmental stage and was undergoing further
observation and evaluation,” Ona explained.
    
“The leadership that took over the DoH after I left in December 20, 2014 is solely responsible
for all the decisions that has resulted in what is becoming to be a major health nightmare in the
country today,” Ona added.
    
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center on Sunday
admitted that he was directly involved in the multi-billion peso procurement of Dengvaxia vaccines.
    
However, PCMC Executive Director Julius Lecciones said the procurement was made upon the
orders of the Secretary of Health.
    
“Ang PCMC ang inatasan ng DoH, ng Secretary of Health, na kung maaaring siya ang mag-procure
para sa pangangailangan nila sa Dengvaxia. Wala naman akong nakitang maaaring... legal o ilegal dahil
from time to time kami naman ay nagpu-procure para sa DoH. Inilagay sa akin, itrinansfer ang P3
billion lang actually na ibinayad d’yan na tinanggap ko at ibinigay sa Zuellig (Pharmaceutical) na
siya pong supplier, distributor,” Lecciones said.
    
Garin earlier said the PCMC was the entity that made the actual procurement of the
controversial dengue vaccines manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur.
    
Garin, who was the Health secretary when the procurement was made and when the dengue vaccine
immunization program using Dengvaxia was rolled out, added that the negotiations with Sanofi started
during Ona’s time.
    
Lecciones, Garin and several officials from the DoH have been invited to attend the Senate
blue ribbon committee’s hearing on the controversial dengue immunization program on Monday morning.
    
Lecciones, who met with at least 800 members of the Quezon City Police District who were
vaccinated with Dengvaxia to personally apologize to them, said he will fully cooperate in the Senate
inquiry and other investigations being conducted on the Dengvaxia controversy.
    
Meanwhile, Senator Richard J. Gordon, Blue Ribbon chair, said the negotiations appear to be
supply-driven rather than needs-driven.
    
Gordon also expressed suspicion on the undue haste with which the procurement process was made
and why the new vaccine was distributed without waiting for recommendation and approval from the World
Health Organization.