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Senate OKs P1.16-B supplemental budget for Dengvaxia recipients

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Voting 18-0-0, the Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill appropriating over P1.161 billion supplemental budget for the Department of Health (DoH) this year to fund medical assistance programs for dengue patients.

The senators passed House Bill No. 7449, which was sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Legarda said the supplemental budget of P1.161 billion for the DoH would be used exclusively to fund medical assistance programs for dengue patients, including those who are confined or are outpatients.

“The above allocation will also be used to provide medical assistance for hospitalization, out-patient care services, procurement of supplies and medicine,” she said.

The supplemental budget would provide help and “allay the fears” not only of the almost 900,000 individuals, both children and adults, who were administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine.

“The Senate version, in fact, widened the scope of the medical assistance program, in terms of beneficiaries as well as covered areas,” Legarda said.

“Let us earnestly hope that this health assistance program will not be too late in terms of making sure that we keep our children safe and healthy,” she said.

Legarda noted that 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.”

She added that the National Treasurer had issued a certification that the P1.161 billion for the supplemental budget was actually available in the National 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.”