By Ellson Quismorio
All is not lost even with the Senate’s failure to approve the P1.161-billion Supplemental Budget to assist victims of the Dengvaxia vaccine, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles said Thursday.
Nograles said that while he is sad that unforeseen circumstances led to the non-approval of the supplemental budget aimed at assisting the 900,000 Dengvaxia vaccinees, it is imperative for the government to continue providing assistance to the victims.
He specifically advised the Department of Health (DoH) to tap its existing budget to begin the profiling and the monitoring of the Dengvaxia vaccinees.
“I’m calling on the DOH to use their 2018 budget to assist our Dengvaxia victims even as we anticipate the Senate’s approval of the supplemental budget when session resumes on July 23. We cannot wait for another two months or until after the supplemental budget is approved by the Senate before we extend assistance to the Dengvaxia victims,” Nograles said.
“It is quite unfortunate that the Senate was not able to pass the Dengvaxia victims assistance budget but we all have to move on and make do with what we have at present. I know that the Senate Majority bloc led by Senate President Tito Sotto did their best in pushing for its approval but there are things that are beyond their control,” noted the Mindanao lawmaker.
Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives worked till near midnight to unanimously approve House Bill (HB) No. 7449, which would allocate some P1.6 Billion in additional funds for the DOH to assist victims of the faulty Dengvaxia vaccine.
“Even with the failure of the Senate to approve the (supplemental) budget, I’m still very thankful that at least in the House, we saw the Minority bloc, the independent bloc, the Makabayan bloc and all of us in the Majority working together and voting as one in favor of the supplemental budget to come to the aid of all Dengvaxia vaccinees. Unprecedented ito! (This is unprecedented!)” Nograles said.
He noted that although the existing 2018 funds may not be enough to cover all the 900,000 Dengvaxia vaccinees, the Health Department could already start the profiling and monitoring of the victims.
Just do it
It can also tap existing funds not specifically alloted for Dengvaxia assistance to provide direct support for Dengvaxia victims if needed, through its medical assistance program.
“The DOH can use the funds that they have in the medical assistance program under their 2018 budget to pay for the hospitalization and medical needs of the victims. The DOH should do everything to assist the Dengvaxia victims…We cannot afford to dilly-dally on this because time is of the essence and lives are at stake,” Nograles said.
Nograles said the DOH can advance its spending to aid the Dengvaxia vaccinees who will fall sick as this can be covered anyway by the supplemental budget upon its approval.
“The victims need the DOH’s attention now. Just do it,” he stressed.
Nograles earlier filed HB No. 7449, which sought to turn French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur’s P1.161-billion partial refund to the Philippine government into standby medical funds for the vaccines.
Sanofi manufactured Dengvaxia, which in April 2016 was used by the Aquino administration to launch a massive anti-dengue inoculation program.
The program was suspended by the current Duterte administration after Sanofi itself admitted in November 2017 that Dengvaxia could worsen symptoms for vaccinated children who contract dengue for the first time, as per the results of their follow-up study.