P1.2-B dengue fund ap­proval seen this month

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By JESS DIAZ

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is set to ap­prove within this month the pro­posal to al­lo­cate an ad­di­tional P1.2 bil­lion for school­child­ren who get sick af­ter they were in­oc­u­lated with the con­tro­ver­sial dengue vac­cine, Deng­vaxia.

“I will get this ap­proved at the com­mit­tee level on May 22,” Davao City Rep. Karlo No­grales, ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tee chair­man, said yes­ter­day.

He said af­ter his com­mit­tee’s en­dorse­ment of the sup­ple­men­tal bud­get bill, it will then be trans­mited to the House proper.

“We will pass it to the ple­nary for vot­ing on the last week of May be­fore we ad­journ,” No­grales said.

No­grales and Reps. Johnny Pi­mentel of Suri­gao del Sur and Aure­lio Gon­za­les Jr. of Pam­panga have sep­a­rately filed ad­di­tional dengue fund­ing pro­pos­als.

The ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tee con­ducted its first hear­ing on the mea­sures on Wed­nes­day.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Health Sec­re­tary Francisco Duque lll said he ex­pects dengue cases among the 900,000 school chil­dren in­oc­u­lated with Deng­vaxia in 2016 to in­crease this year until 2019 “due to the de­creas­ing pro­tec­tion the vac­cine pro­vides.”

“Pro­tec­tion is strong on the first year and wanes on the third year. Deng­vaxia was given start­ing in March 2016 up to Novem­ber last year when we stopped it. So we ex­pect cases (to) in­crease start­ing this year, which is the third year since the vac­cine was given,” he said.

No­grales agreed with him, say­ing, “This is also the re­port of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion – that chil­dren who were vac­ci­nated with Deng­vaxia are ex­posed to the high­est risk on the third year from vac­ci­na­tion.”

He and Duque ap­pealed to par­ents of the 900,000 school­child­ren who re­ceived Deng­vaxia to watch out for symp­toms of dengue and bring those with man­i­fes­ta­tions im­me­di­ately to gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals.

There are dengue ex­press lanes in these hos­pi­tals, which are un­der in­struc­tions to promptly at­tend to chil­dren show­ing dengue symp­toms.

Fund­ing for the dengue sup­ple­men­tal bud­get will come from the re­fund of equiv­a­lent amount Deng­vaxia maker Sanofi has turned over to the gov­ern­ment. The re­fund rep­re­sents the value of vac­cines the Depart­ment of Health (DOH) has not used when the vac­cine con­tro­versy erupted. It was Duque who de­manded the re­turn of the money.

PAO told to stop sen­sa­tion­al­ism

Suri­gao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pi­mentel asked the com­mit­tee’s re­source per­sons on the num­ber of chil­dren who died af­ter they were vac­ci­nated in 2016 and 2017. No DOH of­fi­cial could pro­vide an an­swer.

Vol­un­teer­ing to re­spond, Pub­lic At­tor­ney’s Of­fice (PAO) chief Per­sida Acosta said, “About 200, your honor. Of those, our of­fice has con­ducted foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion on 55.”

“What is your ba­sis for say­ing there were 200 deaths?” Pi­mentel asked.

The PAO chief said, “Your honor, aside from those we ex­am­ined, there were re­ports of deaths in the prov­inces.”

Pi­mentel cut her short, telling her, “So your an­swer should be only 55. You are just specu- lat­ing when you claimed there have been 200 deaths. This is a sen­si­tive is­sue, you should not spec­u­late.”

Baguio City Rep. Mark Go de­cried the lack of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the DOH and PAO.

“You are treat­ing each other as enemies,” he said.

Go noted that PAO has in fact filed crim­i­nal charges against Duque with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

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