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Cong Tan seeks sustained immunization program

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Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan on Wednesday pushed for the continued implementation of the government’s immunization program to prevent further disease outbreaks amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

During the online “Kapihan Sa Manila Bay” forum, the chairperson of the House Committee on Health said mandatory immunization even during the quarantine period is necessary to ensure that children are protected from the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

“We have several initiatives in Congress in relation to the country’s immunization program. We are pushing for the creation of the NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group), a national immunization advisory board, and we are trying to adopt a school-based immunization program that will benefit our students,” Tan said.

Tan also called for an open, competitive bidding process in vaccines, noting that no single manufacturer or single brand should be favored. She particularly referred to the suspension of the anti-pneumonia vaccine for children.

During the same forum, Health Undersecretary, Dr. Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the Department of Health (DOH) suspended the bidding for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) after new evidence that they need to look into more carefully was presented.

“HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Center) is reviewing the procurement, which is really the right process. Ngayon po hindi pa lumalabas ang recommendation ng HTAC (The recommendation of the HTAC has not been issued yet),” Vergeire said.

The DOH previously requested the HTAC to review the National Immunization Program (NIP), particularly the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program for children, in light of new 2017 and 2019 evidence from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In February 2019, WHO reaffirmed this earlier position saying that the two available PCVs in the market – PCV10 and PCV13 – are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children.

“Both vaccines exist. If the health assessment proves that both PCV10 and PCV13 have the same effects, then we need to go through a procurement process that’s open and competitive so the government can save on costs,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, Ako Padayon Party-list Rep. Adriano Ebcas has filed a resolution urging the DOH to ensure the continued safe implementation of the mandated National Immunization Program for children despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ebcas stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered the delivery of other public health services, such as the provision of routine immunization to infants and children.

“The ongoing community quarantine measures put in place to control the spread of Covid-19 have been observed to significantly challenge or completely pause the effective and efficient implementation of the National Immunization Program for children in community health centers and other vaccination facilities,” Ebcas said.

House Resolution 906 aims to encourage and support the DOH in its endeavor to contain the current outbreak and prevent future community outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases during the pandemic.

It also aims to secure and ensure a stable supply of available vaccines through the continued conduct of open, fair and competitive bidding, thereby preventing any “outbreak within an outbreak.” (PNA)

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