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Aquino spared from dengue inquiry

FORMER President Benigno Aquino III will not be invited to the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation of the allegedly anomalous procurement of P3.5 billion worth of dengue vaccines shortly before the May 2016 elections, Senator Richard Gordon said Sunday.

“At this point in the investigation we have not invited President Aquino,” said Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.

The purchase of the medicines was made during the time of Health Secretary Janette Garin who was appointed to her post in December 2014 or a month after being designated acting secretary.

Former President Benigno Aquino III

But Garin, a former congresswoman and a party mate of Aquino at the Liberal Party, insisted on the need for the vaccines due to the rising incidence of dengue cases.

But Gordon said the purchase of the vaccines was surrounded by suspicious circumstances.

He said he was baffled by the rush to purchase the vaccines when only 250 people a year died from dengue, which affected only 200,000 people or 0.01 percent of the population.    

Anthony Leachon, a doctor and an independent health advocate and member of the Dengue Expert Panel convened by the Health department, also questioned how P3.5 billion was allocated for a single vaccine when the entire vaccination program of the department totaled P3 billion.   

He pointed out the procedural lapses in the dengue vaccination program, the evident conflict of interest in the members of the formulary executive community, and the supposed bloating/overpricing of the particular drug.

He cited the time line of the department’s dengue vaccination program starting from the meeting between Aquino and Sanofi representatives during the Climate Change Summit in Paris on Dec. 2, 2014.

Gordon said testing for the new vaccine had not yet been completed when the government procured it.

This was supported by Leachon who cited calls from the scientific community for a longer study to ensure the safety of the beneficiaries

Gordon said he invited to the next hearing medical experts and officials from the Department of Health and its attached agencies, the Department of Budget and Management and the Commission on Audit to further clarify the Dengvaxia vaccine’s attributes and testing methods/results to date in the Philippines and how the procurement by the Health department was processed.

“Certain issues have been brought to the attention of the committee and the Senate concerning a vaccine called Dengvaxia and there are certain issues that have been presented, issues concerning the capability of the product, the manner of testing whether there were sufficient testing that had happened,” Gordon said. 

Topics: Benigno Aquino III , Senate Blue Ribbon investigation , Dengue vaccines , Senator Richard Gordon , Janette Garin
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