The chairman of the House committee on appropriations on Monday said Congress has more reasons to approve the proposed supplemental budget for Dengvaxia victims following the New England Journal of Medicine’s affirmation of the ill-effects of Dengvaxia on certain children.
“This study should prompt swift approval of the supplemental budget,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said, referring to House Bill 7449 or the P1.16-billion supplemental budget for 2018 that will cover possible medical expenses that may be incurred should children injected with Dengvaxia get ill.
The House earlier passed on third and final reading its version of the supplemental budget before the sine die adjournment of Congress late last month. But the Senate failed to pass its version.
“I have no doubt that the Senate would ultimately do what’s right and make sure that the money we set aside will end up benefitting the Dengvaxia victims. It is too important to ignore,” Nograles said.
Published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine were the results of an analysis of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur manufactured the drug, which in April 2016 was made the focus of a massive inoculation campaign by the previous Aquino administration.
In November 2017, Sanofi admitted that the vaccine could worsen symptoms for “seronegative” children or those who have never contracted dengue but were given Dengvaxia shots anyway.
By this time, nearly 900,000 Filipino school children had been vaccinated under the anti-dengue program.
“The published findings confirmed Sanofi’s belated admission of the pitfalls of Dengvaxia. It also upheld the World Health Organization recommendation last April that the vaccine should not be used without testing for prior dengue exposure,” Nograles said.
The proposed P1.16-billion supplemental budget makes use of Sanofi’s partial refund for the P3-billion anti-dengue program. The refund specifically covers the unused Dengvaxia vials that the Department of Health returned following the program’s suspension by the Duterte administration.
Citing the findings, Nograles reiterated his call for the French company to make a full refund, i.e., reimbursing the Philippine government for the used Dengvaxia vials.
“Sanofi has rejected DoH’s request for a full refund multiple times now, refusing to pay the Philippine government back for the vaccines already used. But all Dengvaxia has given is grief and anger to us Filipinos who unfortunately served as guinea pigs. The Philippines through the DoH has more leverage than ever to seek the refund,” Nograles said.
The supplemental budget allocates funds for medical assistance and the monitoring of the health of the children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
In this regard, Nograles, who oversees the crafting of the national budget in his capacity as Appropriations chairman, promised to funnel more money into the treatment and monitoring efforts on the Dengvaxia vaccinees.
“We will also look for more funds to be allocated in the 2019 budget to fund the needs of the Dengvaxia victims. Hindi namin sila papabayaan, responsibilidad sila ng gobyerno,” he said.
House deliberations for the 2019 national budget are expected to begin in August.