Dengue vaccine probe to focus on possible ‘haste’ in drug’s purchase

MANILA -- As probe on the dengue-vaccine controversy nears, Senator JV Ejercito on Thursday said he wants to focus on the possibility of "haste" in the drug's purchase when asked if former President Benigno Aquino should now speak up on the issue.

"Sa ngayon kasi, we want to focus on the procurement kung nagkaroon ng haste sa procurement. It will be premature to point to the top already," he said. "But if it will reach the top then we will advise them to answer."

In the briefing, he said that the meetings of President Aquino with Sanofi Pasteur is also something to look into.

"It will be unethical that they were able to bag the PHP3.5-billion contract," he said. "Bakit there were two instances, hindi lang sa France, yung isa sa China. What are the officials of Sanofi doing in China while the president is there?" he asked.

In 2014, former President Aquino met with Sanofi in China who informed him they are developing vaccines against dengue.

In 2015, he met with Sanofi Pasteur CEO Olivier Charmeil for a courtesy call at the Hotel Scribe in France.

In 2016, the administration of the dengue vaccine to public school students was approved, earmarking a P3.5 billion fund for the program.

But in November this year, Sanofi Pasteur revealed the drug may cause a severe case of disease among recipients who have not contracted the dengue virus before.

Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefits against dengue fever in those who had a prior infection. For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection, a Sanofi Pasteur statement reads.

At present, Dengvaxia vaccine had already been administered to more than 700,000 public school children.

Senate is set to conduct a public hearing on December 11 to probe on the controversy. If Aquino will be invited as a resource person, Ejercito said it would be the Senate Blue Ribbon committee's call.

"Call na po siguro 'yan ng blue ribbon because it will fall on accountability," he said.

"We are not a rich country, with our very limited resources, we must work on it. We want our public officials to use our scarce resources prudently."

Source: Philippine News Agency