By Ben Rosario
Department of Health (DOH) officials appointed by the Duterte administration may face the same serious charges sought to be recommended against their predecessors for failure to act on warnings to temporarily stop the Dengvaxia vaccination program.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government, aired this warning 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 administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
At the sidelines 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, 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 when session resumes.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that conducted a similar probe has also ended its hearings and will soon release its report.
Ubial, one of the Duterte appointees who failed to secure Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmation, has been implicated in the Dengvaxia irregularity for allegedly expanding the coverage of the vaccination program during her stint as Health secretary.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, has been fed with information that Ubial allegedly 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 Committee on Health 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 Philippine National Police (PNP) were injected. The policemen are outside the targeted 9 to 11-year-old children under the original 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, the congressional probe showed.
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,” Gatchalian said earlier.