Dela Rosa: Are outbreaks created so vaccines make money?

Michelle Abad
Research Institute for Tropical Medicine's Celia Carlos takes the question seriously and says they have checks and policies in place to prevent 'untoward things' from happening

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Imagine if vaccines were used to generate profit from an intentionally-proliferated disease outbreak. It’s a plot hatched in Hollywood dystopia.

In a Senate committee hearing on September 24, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa asked resource speakers from the Department of Health and other health organizations if it was possible for vaccine developers to create outbreaks so their vaccines make more money.

Health and demography committee chair Senator Bong Go was just about to wrap up a two-hour hearing on immunization when Dela Rosa signaled he wanted to add something.

It was Dela Rosa’s first and only time to speak in the hearing.

Hindi ito related sa budget ninyo, pero nanonood kasi ako ng sine. Tatanong ko lang sa inyo, puwede ba ‘yung mga lumalabas sa sine na, ‘yung mga producer ng vaccines, sila rin yung nagci-create ng outbreak para mabenta ‘yung kanilang vaccine?” he asked.

Nanonood lang ako ng sine. Puwede kaya mangyari ‘yan?

(This isn’t related to your budget, but I watch movies. I would just like to ask, is it possible, as seen in the movies, that vaccine producers are also the ones who create outbreaks so that their vaccines would sell? I just watch movies. Can that happen?)

Pasagot mo kay Lito Lapid ‘yan mamaya (Ask Senator Lito Lapid later),” Go told Dela Rosa, prompting laughter in the room.

While Dela Rosa appeared to be half kidding, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) said they had policies in place to prevent that from happening.

RITM Director Celia Carlos said that since the RITM stores microorganisms, they are, in fact, technically capable of doing “untoward things.”

Given this, management does background investigations of their staff, puts up more than 50 always-running CCTV cameras, and has in place strict access control measures in the facility. They also participate in programs to address biosafety and biological hazards.

Still, “anything can happen,” said Carlos.

Not long after, Go ended the session and thanked resource persons for their inputs. –

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.