By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Health has approved a substitute measure seeking to expand the list of vaccine-preventable diseases covered by the mandatory basic immunization for all infants and children.
The House panel, chaired by Quezon fourth district Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan passed the unnumbered proposed Immunization Program Act during its panel deliberation on Wednesday, February 26.
The substitute measure, which is a consolidation of seven measures, provides a system in determining other types of vaccine-preventable diseases.
It amends the Republic Act No. 10152 also known as the “Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011.”
“The bill proposes to limit the power of the Secretary of Health to determine other types of vaccine-preventable diseases by requiring the recommendation of the FEC (Formulary Executive Council) and presentation before the joint committee hearing of the Committee on Health and Demography of the Senate and the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives,” Tan said.
She explained that under R.A. 10152, the DOH Secretary is empowered to determine such other types of vaccine-preventable diseases in a department circular.
“R.A. 10152 gives the Secretary of Health unfettered discretion to expand the list of vaccine-preventable diseases,” the House leader said.
Under the current law, the list of vaccine-preventable diseases only covers Tuberculosis; Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis; Poliomyelitis; Measles; Mumps; Rubella or German Measles; Hepatitis-B; H. Influenza Type-B (HIB); and such other types as may be determined by the Secretary of Health in a department circular.
The substitute bill proposes the inclusion of Rotavirus, Japanese Encephalitis, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV 13), and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the list of vaccine-preventable diseases.
It provides that other types of vaccine-preventable diseases as may be determined by the Secretary Health in a department circular shall be included in the list upon the recommendation of FEC and the National Immunization Committee (NIC) created as an Advisory Group to provide technical support to the setting of a DOH policy direction on the National Immunization Program (NIP), and after separate or joint public hearings conducted by the Committee on Health and Demography of the Senate and the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives.
Under the substitute measure, “when there is pandemic and when the Congress of the Philippines is not in session, the said public hearings need not be conducted.”
Tan explained that the bill requires the submission of an annual report to ensure the “efficient, economical, and effective implementation of the law.”
The bill mandates the DOH to submit a report giving a detailed account of the status of the implementation of the proposed Act to the Office of the President of the Philippines, the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, and the House Committee on Health on or before the end of December of every year, or upon the request of any of the concerned committees of Congress.
“The Dengvaxia controversy placed under the spotlight the government’s vaccination program, bringing to the fore the policy of empowering the Secretary of Health to overrule reservations of the FEC, a panel of top Filipino experts tasked to identify the diseases for which medicines need to be included in the formulary based on a continuing review of disease statistics from public and private hospitals and other health facilities,” Tan said.