By Camille A. Aguinaldo
SENATOR Loren B. Legarda has filed a bill appropriating the P1.16-billion refund for unused Dengvaxia vaccines to medical assistance for vaccinated children under the suspended anti-dengue immunization program.
Filed on Thursday, Senate Bill No. 1794 indicated that the total amount of P1,161,700,000 would be exclusively used for the following activities aimed at helping Dengvaxia vaccinees:
• Human resource for health (HRH) deployment
• Public Health Management
• Assistance to indigent patients either confined or out-patient in government hospitals, specialty hospitals, local government unit hospitals, Philippine General Hospital, and West Visayas State University Hospital
“This medical assistance program will hopefully prevent further deaths and illnesses of those administered with the vaccine, regardless of cause,” said Ms. Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, in the bill’s explanatory note.
Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur has refused to provide the full refund of P3.5 billion including the amount spent on the used vaccines.
Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas, and Davao City Rep. Karlo B. Nograles, chair of the House committee on appropriations, also filed a similar measure last March.
Over 830,000 children were inoculated with the Dengvaxia vaccine under the immunization program of the previous administration in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
The program was later expanded to Cebu by then health secretary Paulyn B. Rosell-Ubial, but was suspended last year following Sanofi Pasteur’s findings that the vaccine may pose health risks to those vaccinated without having been infected by dengue.
Congressional hearings ensued with a report by the Senate blue-ribbon committee recommending the filing of graft charges against former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III, former health secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin, former budget secretary Florencio B. Abad, and others over the alleged hasty procurement of the vaccines.