Duterte appointees may face raps on Denvaxia vaccine

Published March 31, 2018, 3:12 PM

by Patrick Garcia


By Ben Rosario

Department of Health officials appointed by the Duterte administration may face the same serious charges sought to be recommended against their predecessors for inaction to warnings to temporarily stop the Dengvaxia vaccination program.

FILE PHOTO: A worker shows used anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia inside a vaccine storage room in Sta. Cruz city, Metro Manila, Philippines December 4, 2017. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo | Manila Bulletin)
A worker shows used anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia inside a vaccine storage room in Sta. Cruz city, December 4, 2017. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo | Manila Bulletin)

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Ty-Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government, aired this warning even as Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, chairperson of the House Committee on Health, revealed that she had recommended to former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial the continued suspension of the anti-dengue vaccination program initiated by the previous government under former President Benigno Aquino III.

At the sidelights of a press conference prior to Congress adjournment, Pimentel disclosed that the good government and health panels will recommend the filing of criminal charges against former and incumbent officials, mostly from the DOH, not only for pursuing the anomalous P3.2 billion Dengvaxia vaccination program.

Pimentel said former and incumbent officials who were involved due to their actions or inaction in protecting public health and safety will also be made liable.

The two House panels have completed the joint investigation into the Dengvaxia controversy and are ready to submit the report on their findings and recommendations.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that conducted a similar probe has also ended its hearings and will soon release its report.

Ubial, one of he Duterte appointees who failed to win Commission on Appointments confirmation, has been implicated in the Dengvaxia irregularity for allegedly expanding the coverage of the vaccination program during her stink as health secretary.

Headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, the blue ribbon panel has been fed with information that Ubial released P2 billion to procure the vaccine during her term, thus, should be held “equally liable.”

Rep. Tan, during another press conference, confirmed that Ubial had indeed resumed Dengvaxia vaccinations notwithstanding the strong misgivings aired by the House health panel over the safety and efficacy of the anti-dengue vaccine manufactured by French firm, Sanofi Pasteur.

Both House and Senate probes indicated that the DOH under Ubial used and injected more than one million vaccine doses in the expanded program .

The recent probe suggested that Ubial is liable for changing the mode of implementing the Dengue immunization program which she apparently converted from school-based to community-based.

As a result, around 5,000 members of the PNP were injected, who were outside the targeted 9-11 year-olds under the school-based program.

Further, monitoring, as well as important protocols for patient information, including securing consent and waiver forms were compromised due to the alterations made by Ubial on her shift to community based implementation.

In comparison, former Health Secretary Janet Garin reportedly used around 493,000 doses of the dengue vaccine while she was in office.

Reports indicated that the information irked Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian during one of the Senate hearings where the lawmaker blasted Ubial for spreading the vaccine program into other regions.

“She (Ubial) expanded the program to the regions, if I’m not mistaken Region VII and in my opinion she is liable for that because these are the lives of the children,” said Gatchalian. (Ben R. Rosario)