By Hannah Torregoza
The Senate committee on finance on Tuesday pushed for the passage of the P1.16-billion supplemental appropriation that would be used as medical assistance to vaccinees of the government’s anti-dengue program.
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the finance panel and sponsor of the measure, said passage of the bill is a must as it has been certified urgent by the Duterte administration to assuage the anxieties of the families whose children were inoculated by the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine during the Aquino administration.
“This bill has been certified urgent by the President, let us do our part in allaying the fears of the parents and families of the almost 900,000 individuals, both children and adults, who had been administered with this vaccine,” Legarda said in her sponsorship speech.
“Dengvaxia was originally intended to help reduce, if not eradicate, the dengue incidents in the country, and it was most unfortunate that the public was not informed of its accompanying risks,” she 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, most specially, safe and healthy,” said the senator.
“I, therefore urge and appeal to this Chamber that we pass immediately House Bill No. 7449, under Committee Report No. 395, without amendments,” she said of the measure which emanated from the House of Representatives.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, and co-sponsor of the measure, threw his support for the passage of the measure into law.
“In view of this and the public interest involved, immediate action should be taken to guarantee the welfare of the children,” Ejercito said.
Ejercito said the fund shall be used to finance the assistance to the Dengvaxia vaccinees which shall include but not limited to their hospitalization, outpatient health care services, and deployment of health personnel, among others.
“Malaking tulong po ang alokasyon na ito upang masigurado natin na mabibigyan ng karampatang lunas at medical attention ang mga bata (The funds would be a great help to ensure that the children would be given adequate help and medical attention to recover from any ill-effects of the drug),” Ejercito said.
The Senate earlier failed to pass the supplemental budget during the last session day of the upper chamber last May due to a lack of quorum.
The P1.16-billion would be the funds returned by Sanofi Pasteur—maker of the Dengvaxia vaccines—for the unused vials which was purchased in 2016.