Mandatory immunization for preventable diseases sought

HOUSE Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera yesterday backed the passage of a bill providing for the mandatory immunization program for vaccine-preventable diseases and calling on the Department of Health (DoH) to implement an open and competitive bidding process for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs).

“Among these preventable diseases, pneumonia is one of the most dreaded, as it severely and adversely affects children and those of advanced age. It is among the top killer diseases in the country,” said Herrera.

Herrera noted that, in relation to this, the PCV bidding should be open to all suppliers in the market today, especially in the light of the most recent studies of global health experts like the World Health Organization (WHO) that declared that the two PCVs in the market today are comparable in performance.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a position paper declaring that the two available PCVs in the market—PCV 10 and PCV 13—are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children. Following this announcement, the Department of Health (DOH) requested the new Health Technology Assessment Council—which is mandated by the Universal Health Care Law to review existing health programs and benefits of the DoH and PhilHealth—to assess the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program in light of scientific evidence and the significant budget impact of this particular vaccine.

The DoH also stressed that it will push through with the PCV tender only after the HTAC completes its assessment.

“The procurement of the pneumonia vaccines alone for this year will cost around P4.9 billion, almost three times the amount of the Dengvaxia procurement. For this reason alone, we must be vigilant and make sure that the DOH will not favor a single supplier or a single type of pneumonia vaccine,” said Herrera.

“I implore the DoH to complete its assessment of the viability all types of pneumonia vaccines and conduct an open and competitive bidding. We should not allow another monopoly to be put in place, especially for something as important as the pneumonia vaccines for children. We must ensure the safety and quality of our vaccines,” she stressed.

“An open and competitive bid will allow the DoH to choose the best supplier that will not only provide vaccine protection but will also give the government substantial savings that can be used to provide a wider vaccine coverage or to fund other vaccine-related projects,” Herrera added.

Under the proposed measure on the mandatory immunization program, the vaccines shall be administered for free in any government hospital or health facility, in any public school or community, and in any private health facility if such is included in the PhilHealth benefit package.

Moreover, the DoH, in collaboration with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), shall undertake a school-based and community-based immunization program.           Ryan Ponce Pacpaco