Disappointed by the failure of the Senate to pass the P1.16 billion supplemental budget for Dengvaxia-administered children, Sen. Richard Gordon asked the Department of Health (DOH) on Mondayto use its emergency funds to assist more than 800,000 children inoculated with the controversial dengue vaccine.
In a statement, the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee called on the DOH to take steps to meet the medical needs of children who were inoculated with the dengue vaccine in 2016 as part of a government mass vaccination program under the Aquino administration.
“[The non-passage of the bill] does not mean we’re suspending our assistance to the people,” Gordon said. “The DOH has an emergency fund it can tap temporarily. Besides, the initial fund need not necessarily be big, considering not all who were vaccinated would need to be examined.”
The Senate failed to take up the bill in plenary session before it adjourned last week. The House of Representatives passed it on third reading on the strength of President Rodrigo Duterte’s letter certifying it as urgent.
The Dengvaxia case is politically-charged and controversial, as it involves officials from the previous administration, including former President Benigno Aquino III and his former health secretary Janette Garin, who are facing charges over the Dengvaxia program.
In 2016, some 830,000 children were inoculated with the vaccine, which at the time was seen as a preventive medicine for dengue, but it later turned out was supposed to be administered only to those who alread has a history of dengue.
In November 2017, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, Sanofi Pasteur, issued a global advisory warning of the risks of administering Dengvaxia to “seronegative” persons, or those with no history of dengue, saying a small proportion of them might contract severe symptoms of the disease instead.
Sanofi refunded the government P1.16 billion in unused doses of Dengvaxia, with lawmakers earmarking the money as medical assistance for those who had already been administered the medicine.
Though the fund could not yet be withdrawn from the National Treasury pending the passage of the measure, Gordon said the DOH could already prepare a master list of all the recipients of the vaccine and upload it on a computer that could be accessed by hospitals, both public and private.
“They only need to list the names, schools and addresses of those who were injected and give the list to public or private hospitals, so that when the children are sent there, they can immediately be tested for dengue,” he said.
“And if they really have dengue, they could immediately be given emergency treatment,” Gordon said. /atm
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