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Own up vaccine mess, Aquino told

Sen. Richard J. Gordon yesterday urged former President Benigno S. Aquino III to apologize and accept responsibility over his administration’s controversial procurement of P3.5-billion worth of anti-dengue vaccines.

Gordon made the call ahead of the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the Dengvaxia controversy today.

Aquino has denied allegations he rushed the procurement of the anti-dengue vaccines in time for the May 2016 elections.
He said he approved the project due to the increasing number of dengue cases in the country.

“I have a statement tomorrow likening the Dengvaxia issue to how he acted during the Mamasapano controversy which he also evaded. He should own up to his responsibility,” Gordon said.

“He talked to then Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan L.M. Purisima, he also talked to Sanofi Pasteur officials, which is unethical,” he said.

Gordon said Aquino met with Sanofi executives twice in 2014 and 2015 and afterwards, the approval of the medicines which they intended for a mass national immunization program was evidently too fast.

Based on the committee’s timeline, the Special Allotment Release Order for the Dengvaxia purchase was issued in the same month Aquino met with Sanofi officials in December 2015.

Aquino has blamed former Health Secretary Enrique Ona for the controversy, saying he acted on the dengue cases based on a memorandum Ona released back in 2010.

Ona denied Aquino’s allegations, saying he wouldn’t have recommended the purchase of Dengvaxia and use it on a national level with a targeted one million children for vaccination. (Hannah L. Torregoza)