House panel to DOH: Fund vaccinated kids' profiling, not anti-dengue kits
MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on appropriations ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to realign funds meant for anti-dengue kits, and use the money to profile all children vaccinated with Dengvaxia instead.
This was the order of appropriations panel chairperson Karlo Nograles to the DOH on Wednesday, May 16, as the committee deliberated on the proposed P1.16-billion medical support fund for all kids who received the risky vaccine.
The DOH, however, is requesting for funding up to P1,197,891,420, broken down as follows:
- P84,000,000 for the Medical Assistance Program for Dengvaxia patients
- P776,250,000 for the Outpatient Care Package
- P67,807,420 for the deployment of nurse-health education promotion officers
- P300,000,000 for the proposed active case finding or profiling of the vaccinated children
- P270,000,000 for the distribution of medical kits
Nograles took issue with the P270,000,000 allotted for the anti-dengue kits, after parents invited during the hearing said their children do not need its contents. These include a thermometer, two bottles of multivitamins, and a mosquito repellant.
Instead, both the Davao City 1st District representative and the parents want the DOH to focus first on the medical profiling of all the vaccinated children.
"Ang una kong babatikusin dito 'yung medical kit.... Tanggalin na lang natin itong medical kits and let's focus on profiling muna these children para maging kampante ang mga magulang. I'd scrap that medical kit," said Nograles.
(The first thing I will criticize is the medical kit.... Let's remove these medical kits and let's focus on the profiling of these children to appease the parents. I'd scrap the medical kit.)
"I think you have to recast. You have to re-prioritize this," he added.
Nograles' committee held the hearing on Wednesday after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Nograles himself filed a bill in March seeking to allot P1.16 billion for children immunized with Dengvaxia.
The Dengvaxia controversy began after Sanofi announced in November 2017 that its vaccine could lead a person to develop a more severe case of dengue when administered to a person who had not been infected by the virus before immunization. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)
This caused outrage among parents and the local medical community, as Dengvaxia was the vaccine used when the DOH, under then-secretary Janette Garin, launched the school-based immunization program in April 2016.
Both houses of Congress have since launched their own investigations into the matter. The Senate blue ribbon committee recommended the filing of criminal charges against Garin, ex-president Benigno Aquino III, former budget chief Florencio Abad, and other officials from the DOH, Sanofi, and Zuellig.