By Ellson Quismorio
Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles on Monday warned the Senate about being “complacent” regarding the chamber’s yet-to-be passed version of the P1.161-billion supplemental budget, which would serve as standby medical funds for Dengvaxia vaccinees.
“The congressional hearings may be done, but the problem – the threats to the lives of children – is still there. The funds needed to monitor them and to prevent fatalities are still up to the Senate. These funds are needed now more than ever,” said Nograles, chairman of the appropriations committee.
In May, the House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill (HB) 7449, which intends to set up a P1.161-billion fund as medical assistance for Dengvaxia vaccine recipients.
The supplemental fund represents the partial reimbursement made to the Philippine government by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, makers of the controversial anti-dengue drug.
A counterpart bill is still pending at the Senate.
“All this knowledge about the potential dangers of Dengvaxia won’t be of any use to use if we fail to act. The ill-advised actions of government put lives at risk, and only a well-informed response by government can mitigate those risks,” Nograles added.
Dengvaxia has caused much anguish and grief among Filipinos after the drug–belatedly acknowledged by its manufacturer Sanofi as faulty–was used by the previous Aquino administration in a P3-billion mass anti-dengue fever inoculation program in April 2016.
At least 65 out of the nearly 900,000 vaccinees–the vast majority of which are schoolchildren–have died according to the Department of Health (DOH).
In a meeting with affected families in Binangonan, Rizal, the Davao legislator said he was hopeful that the supplemental budget would be approved by the Senate on August 28 so that the funds could be mobilized for the vaccinees. An estimated 700 children received the vaccine in Binangonan alone.
Nograles said all those vaccinated with Dengvaxia should be provided immediate access to medical care when they get sick.
“It doesn’t matter what these children get sick of; if they were injected with Dengvaxia, they are at risk, and the DOH should take care of everything; hospialization, medicines, all of these should be provided,” he explained.
In the meeting, representatives from the Samahan ng mga Magulang, Anak, at Biktima ng Dengvaxia (SMABD), told Nograles they badly need medical assistance. They said that “every day, we ask ourselves; will our children still be alive tomorrow?”
Nograles assured members of the support group that funds from the supplemental budget would allow the DOH to send teams of nurses and health workers to affected areas like Binangonan.
“We will be able to send nurses, these nurses can go to the affected towns, to the barangays, go house-to-house if needed, to make proper medical profiles so that the DOH can build a database. They will also be able to provide assistance for Dengvaxia-vaccinated individuals if they need medical attention or are brought to the hospital,” he said.