The Senate hearings on the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program led by the Blue Ribbon Committee starts tomorrow and out of respect, former President Benigno S. Aquino III will not yet be called to testify.
Sen. Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, said he does not want to embarrass the former Chief Executive in tomorrow’s public hearing because he might not yet ask him questions as he has many resources persons called to testify.
Gordon said they have enough circumstantial connections starting from two meetings by Aquino with officials of Sanofi Pasteur, maker of the Dengvaxia vaccine used in the program, in China and in Paris, and shortcuts in funding the purchase that was not in the national budget.
He said the first meeting between Aquino and Sanofi officials in China is OK but the second meeting in Paris between the former President and former Department of Health Secretary Janette Garin and company officials is not.
Paris was not in their schedule, Gordon said.
Gordon said Aquino has to know the Sanofi-DoH deal because the vaccine contract he signed is worth a whopping P3.5 billion.
Garin has tagged her predecessor Enrique Ona in the controversy.
In a TV interview, Garin denied that the program was solely her decision as the initiative was announced by Ona during his time.
Garin said talks on the vaccine to be used in the program began as early as 2010 during the term of Ona and that Dengvaxia was the vaccine being considered.
“Hindi po ito decision na ako lang. Hindi po ito sinimulan lang noong pagpasok ko noong 2014. I think June or July, Secretary Ona already announced na magkakaroon ng bakuna ng dengue by 2015, probably middle, and the department is contemplating putting it in their public health program, pero sinabi rin niya na wala pa ‘yung presyo at di pa napag-uusapan,” she said.
“It started during his time,” Garin said.
The government suspended the program last month after Sanofi disclosed that Dengvaxia was found to potentially cause more severe case of dengue.
More than 800,000 school age children have been inoculated with Dengvaxia when the program was suspended.
Garin claimed she and her child have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia which was said to be effective on people aged nine-years-old to 45-years-old.
“Kahit kami galit na galit kami ng malaman naming ang announcement ng Sanofi lalo na nong makita mo severe dengue. Nanay din ako. Anak ko nabakunahan din. Ako nabakuhana din,” she said. stressed. (Mario B. Casayuran and Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce)