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DOH formulary executive panel against Dengvaxia purchase, says ex-undersecretary

A former undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said that the department's Formulary Executive Council did not give the go-signal for the government's purchase of P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine.

"Ang Formulary Executive Committee ng DOH simula't sapul tutol sila dito. They did not want to use Dengvaxia on a mass scale," former DOH undersecretary Susan Mercado said in an Unang Balita interview.

Mercado added that panel had also denied the request then of the DOH leadership, under former secretary Janette Garin, for "exceptional approval for one year only."

She said that when the council finally approved the purchase of Dengvaxia from Sanofi Pasteur, it recommended that it be done in a stage procurement and advised the government not to buy the vaccine in bulk or the whole P3.5 billion deal.

The Food and Drug Administration Philippines approved the sale of Dengvaxia in December 2015.

Mercado, however, clarified that "license to sell is different from the approval for the government to buy it."

The World Health Organization had said that it did not recommend the use of Dengvaxia.

She said that the P3.5-billion Dengvaxia deal and the actual administration of the vaccine during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III was a scam because it did not go through the required government processes.

Mercado also said that among the recommendations of the Formulary Executive Council was to administer the vaccine in small populations only.

In January 2016, Garin announced that Aquino had approved the administration of the vaccine to public schoolchildren from nine to 10 years old in three regions, including Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

The goal of the program, which was launched in April 2016, was to administer the dengue vaccine to a total of 1,077,623 children.

The DOH said more than 733,000 public schoolchildren had been vaccinated since the immunization program was launched, and more than 200,000 children have been given three shots.

Mercado said in the interview that the immunization program was launched without the schoolchildren's parents and health workers being given the proper information on Dengvaxia.

"I hope it was not intentional, there was not enough information. Pumayag ang mga nanay na pabakunahan ang kanilang mga anak dahil ang alam nila ito ay proteksyon laban sa dengue. Ang totoo niyan, ang bakunang Dengvaxia hindi naman masama iyan. However, you have to use it properly. Kailangan gamitin mo ito sa batang nagkaroon na ng dengue," the former DOH undersecretary said.

More than a year after the dengue immunization program started, Sanofi Pasteur came out with an advisory last week that the vaccine should not be given to those who have not had dengue.

In her Facebook account, Mercado said that at least 200 parents have provided her names and some photos of their dengue-free children who have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

She promised the parents that the list that she has will be submitted to congressional bodies that will investigate the P3.5-billion dengue vaccine mess.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) had announced that it will also investigate the dengue vaccine purchase of the Aquino administration.

In her post, she said that she received several messages from parents that say their children got dengue after being vaccinated and they required hospitalization.

"I am now analyzing this data and am thankful for those who gave birthdates and locations so I can figure out if age and location is a factor in some of the reactions," Mercado wrote on her Facebook wall.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which requested the DOJ to investigate the dengue vaccine deal, had claimed receiving reports of at least three deaths of children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

Sanofi Pasteur had denied that Dengvaxia is a deadly vaccine. —ALG, GMA News