House sets new Dengvaxia quiz

November 11, 2018

THE House of Representatives is scheduled to “revive” its joint probe on November 20 and 21 into the culpability of the previous administration in the questionable purchase of some three million doses, or P3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines in 2015.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and public accountability, said the two hearings may help them finalize the committee report that was not approved after he replaced Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel as the panel head.

“We will reopen the joint inquiry on November 20 and 21,” Romualdo, a lawyer and bar topnotcher who was elected chairman of the committee after Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the speakership last July, said in an interview.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to tie up loose ends and get a more complete picture of why and how the government procured the vaccines and rolled out the vaccination program and if offenses were committed by the officials involved in the process,” Romualdo explained.

Well-placed sources said Romualdo was forced to conduct hearings to give credibility to the committee report that his panel may approve since he was not part of the joint investigation before.

The panel formerly headed by Pimentel held several hearings jointly with the House Committee on Health led by Quezon Rep. Helen Tan, a doctor by profession, on the Dengvaxia vaccines. According to Romualdo, he has already coordinated with Tan about his plan to reopen the probe.

Dengvaxia was distributed to around 800,000 public school students during the DoH’s anti-dengue immunization program in April 2016.

However, the lone distributor of Dengvaxia, French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, announced in 2017 that the anti-dengue vaccine had potential severe dengue risks among those who had not been diagnosed with the disease before.

Records show that the DoH allocated P3.5 billion for the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccines, which have been administered to children in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and the region of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon. Approximately 10 percent of children administered with Dengvaxia, or about 73,000, have not had dengue yet.

The ensuing panic prompted the DoH to suspend its distribution program in December 2017.

The DoH has been conducting clinical studies on the cause of deaths of some to determine who should be held liable.