Congress closely monitoring biggest vaccine tender; PIDSP: PCV10, PCV13 comparable

THE two pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) in the market today--PCV10 and PCV13--are comparable in performance, based on new evidence gathered by global health experts.

This was what the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) declared during a webinar sponsored by the Samahang Plaridel dubbed “Communicating Key Truths in Public Health” Tuesday.

“We have been given updates on both PCV10 and PCV13. These updates have been reviewed and assessed by the immunization committee and we see that both are comparable,” said Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, vice-president of PIDSP. “So, the updates that were given to us by both companies we have forwarded to the Department of Health (DOH) and we leave it to the DOH, which pneumococcal vaccine will be made available for public use. Especially given for free to the vulnerable children.”

Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, one of the panelists in the workshop, gave updates on the review of PCV10 and PCV13 done by the Health Technology Assessment Committee (HTAC). She said, “If HTAC would find that PCV10 and PCV13 would be comparable, we cannot provide any information about that for now.”

Vergeire, however, revealed that currently, the government is spending P4.9 billion on the procurement of pneumococcal vaccines.

The results of the review, according to Vergeire, is still yet to be released but a Public Health Forum is set to happen this week.

“We have a public forum on Thursday based on the assessment that has been done by the HTAC so that we can address the different queries coming from our stakeholders. We can also consult on the different aspects of this assessment,” she continued.

Rep. Presley de Jesus also supported an open and competitive bidding process for both PCVs. When asked if the recently filed house resolution include protection to ensure integrity of such tender, he responded through a text message, ‘"Definitely. First, as a policy, we should not delay the procurement of vaccines for VPDs (vaccine-preventable diseases) especially as we have seen a surge of VPDs in several pockets of community outbreaks. While the DOH promised a swift review of the PCV tender, we at Congress should make sure the viability of all types of pneumonia vaccines.”

Also present in the workshop to share the importance of communicating key truths in public health were Dr. Troy Gepte and Cathy Church-Balin. Both, like Vergeire, shared why it is critical to keep communication lines open especially during a pandemic.

Rep. Angelina Tan, on the other hand, shared a voice recording where she also stressed how critical it is to ensure factual, science-based information especially during a pandemic.

While communications about the situation and preventive measures concerning COVID-19 are important, communications in public health have always been critical especially in easing the doubts of the public in terms of getting vaccinated. This is especially true in explaining Bunyi’s pronouncement that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks.

Also present in the workshop was Dr. Wilda Silva, National Immunization Program Manager of the DOH, who reported on the high reproduction number of vaccine preventable diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and measles. “Although there is a big problem about SARS-CoV-2, we should not forget other diseases which have vaccines as a bullet to control these vaccine preventable diseases,” Silva said.

“Vaccine gives our children a good start at life,” Silva added, stressing the importance of continued immunization services,