LP senators call for impartial probe into dengue vaccine controversy
MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) senators called on the Duterte government to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the controversial dengue vaccine program.
LP president and minority senator Francis Pangilinan said the probe should not be "selective" and should cover the Duterte administration.
“We support calls for investigation of this issue as thousands of children’s lives are at stake here. We must ensure that the investigation will not be selective and will cover all periods of implementation of the program,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Pangilinan's statement came after the Department of Justice ordered a probe into the issue, and the administration-allied Volunteer against Crime and Corruption claimed it would soon present a witness who has “access to official documents” that would expose anomalies in the procurement of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The government spent P3.5 billion to purchse the dengue vaccine in 2015. The Department of Health implemented the program in 2016 under the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, an LP stalwart.
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the DOH continued the program until its recent suspension, following manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur’s announcement that the dengue vaccine poses serious threats to those vaccinated without prior infection of the virus.
Sanofi, PH government
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon cited the duty of Sanofi Pasteur, together with the government, to ensure the safety of those vaccinated.
“As what the health experts say, dengue kills. And it is the responsibility of government to find a safe and effective solution to the disease,” Drilon said
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said concerned government agencies must monitor the status of those vaccinated with Dengvaxia to ensure their health and wellness.
“Mas mahalagang mabantayan ang kalagayan ng mga estudyanteng tumanggap ng bakuna upang matiyak ang kanilang kaligtasan,” Aquino said.
(It's more important to monitor the condition of students who were vaccinated to ensure their safety.)
Senator Risa Hontiveros, an ally of the LP, would not say if the Aquino administration has liability, saying the impending Senate investigation would have to establish that.
“Past administration o current man 'yan, 'yung isang layunin ng [Senate investigation] ay maestablish yan at susuportahan ko yung proseso," Hontiveros told reporters. (Whether it's the past or current administration, one of the goals of the Senate investigation is to establish liability and I will support the process.)
Hontiveros also called on the government to create a database of the children at risk to monitor their health, and urged Sanofi to provide assistance to those affected.
The DOH earlier said that the Philippines is prepared for a "worst-case scenario," following the Sanofi announcement. The Department of Education, for its part, said it would monitor schoolchildren who had received the vaccine.
As of November 2017, the program has covered over 700,000 students 9 years old and above. – Rappler.com