By Hannah L. Torregoza, Ben R. Rosario, and Betheena Kae Unite
Senate Committee on Health and Demography chairperson Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito has sought the creation of a task force that would conduct a thorough and extensive research and investigation on the effects of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Ejercito said a task force would help the government in its investigation and monitoring on the Dengvaxia issue unhampered.
“I am proposing the creation of a task force that will conduct a thorough, comprehensive, and all angle investigation on the dengue vaccine issue,” Ejercito said. “I am recommending that the task force be composed of representatives from the Department of Health, World Health Organization, Philippine Medical Association, and medical societies, academe, and noted medical and health experts,” he added.
Ejercito has filed Senate Resolution No. 557 directing the proper committee to conduct an inquiry into the dengue immunization program of the DoH vis-à-vis Sanofi Pasteur’s new clinical finding on the vaccine Dengvaxia’s adverse effects to its recipients. The senator said he is keen on opening a legislative inquiry into the controversy next month.
“Officials from the World Health Organization will be arriving on Dec. 12 and 13 and I want to hear what they have to say about the issue before I conduct my investigation,” Ejercito said.
“I believe that the observation and analysis of the WHO officials plus the report and recommendation of the task force that I have proposed to be created will give me a wider grasp and understanding of the problem which will help me a lot in my inquiry,” he said.
The minority bloc in the House of Representatives has decried the failure of the House Committee on Health to publicly release a recommendation to stop the DoH from continuing with the dengue vaccination program.
House Senior Minority Leader and Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said the panel should be held equally liable with the DoH for failing to publicly disclose its recommendation for the suspension of the program early this year.
Committee chairperson and Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan admitted that the health panel has recommended that the DoH should no longer “expand” the vaccination program.
The WHO has denied recommending the use of Dengvaxia to countries, including the Philippines, in their national immunization programs.
“The WHO position paper (published in July 2016) did not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs,” WHO said in a position paper issued Tuesday.
“Rather, WHO outlined a series of considerations national governments should take into account in deciding whether to introduce the vaccine, based on a review of available data at the time, along with possible risks,” it added.