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P1.16-B additional funds for Dengvaxia recipients to be released soon

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Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday expressed hope that concerned authorities will take seriously the lessons learned from the Dengvaxia vaccine “nightmare.”

He lauded the passage of the bill seeking to allocate a supplemental budget amounting to P1.16-billion to the Department of Health (DoH) for the provision of medical assistance to the estimated 830,000 recipients of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

House Bill No. 7449 (Committee Report No. 395), sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda and co-sponsored by Gordon, was approved on third and final reading with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention last Wednesday.

The bill arose from the investigation conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, headed by Gordon, into the alleged “irregular” procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

The probe was prompted by a privilege speech that Gordon delivered in October 2011, questioning the hasty procurement of the vaccines, which was still undergoing clinical testing at the time of procurement.

“Ilalaan ang pondong ito para may magamit ang Department of Health sa kanilang mga programa para sa mga naturukan ng Dengvaxia,” he said.

“This will help in ease the burden of the recipients of the Dengvaxia vaccine and their parents, as well, he added.

Gordon added, “I am confident that the President will sign the bill immediately once the final copy is transmitted to Malacanang because this had been certified as an urgent bill.”

“The message is that the DoH must act with extraordinary diligence before procuring vaccines unless they are adequately tested so as protect the public in general and particularly the nation’s children,” he said.

The DoH’s decisions must “be based on the science and not on political and monetary rewards,” Gordon said.

“The DoH must be prevented from being co-opted politically ever again. The DoH must not forget its role of being the sentinel of public health,” he said.

“Maraming mga magulang ang lumapit sa akin at nagdulog ng hinaing nila. Makakatulong ito ng malaki para mabawasan ang takot nila,” he said.

The funds for the supplemental budget would come from refunds by Zuellig Pharma, the local distributor of the vaccine’s manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, covering the unused vials of Dengvaxia vaccine which has been remitted by the DoH to the Bureau of the Treasury.

As part of the amendments introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the supplemental appropriation would be available for release until December 31, 2019.

Under the bill, the DoH would issue the guidelines necessary for the availment of the foregoing medical assistance program.

The Blue Ribbon Committee found former president Benigno Aquino III, former health secretary Janette Garin, former budget secretary Florencio Abad, Phil. Children’s Medical Center Director Julius Lecciones and other officials of DoH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) liable for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and other laws in connection with the procurement and distribution of the Dengvaxia vaccine.