The chairperson of the House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations on Wednesday questioned the Department of Health’s skewed priorities when it allocated a minuscule amount for the medical assistance program for Dengvaxia patients.
At the same time, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, the panel’s chairperson, asked the DoH to “reprioritize” items in its proposed supplemental budget for Dengvaxia vaccinees after finding it seriously flawed.
“If we lawmakers to decide here in Congress, I think you have to recast [your budget proposal]. You have to reprioritize this,” Nograles said Wednesday as DoH Secretary Francisco Duque III presented to Congress its proposed supplemental budget for the government’s anti-dengue program.
The supplemental budget seeks to tap P1.16-billion refund given to the Philippine government by Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur earlier this year.
The DoH proposal is broken down into the following programs and activities: P270 million for the distribution of medical kits to Dengvaxia vaccinees, P300 million for the proposed active case finding (project based profiling/ navigation of vaccinees), P84 million for the medical assistance program for Dengvaxia patients, P776 million for the outpatient care package, and P67 million for the deployment of nurse - health education and promotion officers (HEPOs).
Nograles questioned the DoH’s huge allocation for medical kits as against the medical assistance program for Dengvaxia patients.
Nograles criticized the inclusion of the medical kits in the DOH proposal and insinuated that these were practically useless given the circumstances.
“I do not think the medical kits play a significant role here in terms of budget. I would scrap that medical kit. Instead of funding medical kits , the DoH should just conduct profiling of the Dengvaxia recipients,” Nograles said
Nograles earlier filed House Bill (HB) 7449 or the proposed Supplemental Budget for 2018 using the P1.16-billion refund.
The Philippine government launched a P3-billion mass anti-dengue vaccination program using the new drug Dengvaxia in April 2016, or during the tail end of the Aquino administration.
Then, in November 2017, Sanofi bared the results of its long-term follow-up study wherein it was learned that “seronegative” vaccinees--children who never had dengue but were given Dengvaxia shots--had an increased risk of a severe case and hospitalization from the third year after immunization. Almost 900,000 kids were already vaccinated when the DOH suspended the program due to the adverse findings.
Nograles pointed out the DOH should concentrate on completing the profiling of the vaccinees first in order to pinpoint the seronegative patients. He said these patients should be be “saved” and prioritized as far as state-sponsored medical treatment goes.
As per the DOH, the medical kit for Dengvaxia vaccinees would include a thermometer, two bottles of multi-vitamins, and a mosquito repellant.
“May gamot pero wala kaming pambili ng gamot. Dapat may medicine na kasama hindi vitamins lang,” replied Elvie Ligeralde, president of the United Parents’ Association Against Dengvaxiaa, after Nograles asked if she would be satisfied with the distribution of such kits.
This developed as Duque expressed openness to suggestion of Nograles to redirect available resources for active profiling of the vaccinees.
“I think this has a lot of wisdom...We are open to you, whatever you finally decide on how to dispose of this money,” Duque said.