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Corruption in Dengvaxia deal?

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Was there really?

Philippine Red Cross lead for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Dr. Susan Mercado stated last week that the Formulary Executive Council (FEC) denied the request of the Department of Health (DoH) leadership under former Secretary Janette Garin for approval on the purchase of Dengvaxia vaccine worth P3.5 billion.

Mercado served as DoH undersecretary under the late Health Secretary and Senator Juan Flavier.

The Dengvaxia purchase became controversial after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed that the vaccine may cause severe dengue for those who have not been infected with the virus before.

Reports said Dengvaxia was administered to at least 830,000 people by the DoH without passing the requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The FEC still failed to give its approval on the purchase of Dengvaxia even after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the sale.

Still, Garin gave an exemption for Dengvaxia although DoH exemptions could only be granted for a current or potential health situation.

Garin admitted that she met previously with Sanofi Pasteur officials in Paris for a briefing on the vaccine but there was allegedly no irregularity since it was done in the presence of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, Senator Dick Gordon, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducting an inquiry into the deal, said the procurement of the vaccine could not be justified by the emergency need for it.

He maintained that there was malice in the procurement considering the questionable meeting of former President Aquino with Sanofi Pasteur officials in Paris on December 1, 2015. He found it surprising that the FDA approved the vaccine merely days after the meeting.

The senator pointed out the extreme speed and undue haste in the deal. To be able to release money reportedly needed a very high influence from the President to get the funding from the Finance Department. The senator saw no justification since there was no dengue pandemic that time.

Gordon earlier said the R3.5-billion immunization deal smacks of a midnight deal since it was approved on December 29, 2015 before the 2016 May election campaign period began.

It seemed the Dengvaxia deal was done prematurely and might have tinges of corruption.

Furthermore, why did Sanofi Pasteur officials go on with the sale if they were unsure that their vaccine was safe for everyone? Were they using Filipinos as their guinea pigs?

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