P1.2-B dengue fund approval seen this month
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.