Radyo Inquirer: DOH seeks review of immunization program
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Health (DOH) has asked the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to review the National Immunization Program (NIP), particularly the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program for children.
“Under the UHC law, there is now a new Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) mandated to review existing health programs and benefits of the DOH and PhilHealth in the next two years,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
“The DOH therefore requested the HTAC to review the NIP in particular the Pneumococcal Vaccination Program in light of scientific evidence and the significant budget impact of this particular vaccine to the Department,” Duque said.
As part of its immunization program, the NIP continues to provide pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), particularly PCV13.
Under the DOH – NIP, PCV is given to the public for free. PCV protects children, pregnant women, and the elderly against diseases caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.
The DOH said it is holding off the procurement of any PCV while waiting for HTAC to complete its assessment.
“While we want our Filipino children to be protected against any pneumococcal disease, we also want to ensure them of the highest quality of our vaccines,” he said.
This move supersedes the DOH’s PCV review conducted in 2014.
It can be noted that in 2017, the World Health Organization, after a systematic literature review, stated,“There is at present no evidence of different net impact on overall disease burden between the two products.”
In February 2019, WHO reaffirmed this earlier position saying that the two available PCVs are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children. The position paper also states that there is at present insufficient evidence of a difference in the net impact of the two available PCVs on overall disease burden.
Duque’s move to have the tender and procurement of PCVs reviewed was lauded by vaccine experts and health advocates.
Obet Pagdanganan, chairman of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA), expressed support for the DOH move.
“I support the DOH move to suspend the procurement of PCVs until the HTAC has completed its evaluation on the budget impact and evidence-based suitability of the two vaccines to deliver the desired health outcomes to the Filipino people,” Pagdanganan said.
Pagdanganan echoed what he said during a previous panel of health experts and advocates. In a panel discussion entitled, “The Need for Transparency and Truthfulness in Public Health Amid Misinformation and Fake News” at the Manila Hotel early this month, Pagdanganan also referred to the new WHO findings that show the equal efficacy of PCV-10 and PCV-13.
Paula Tanquieng of advocacy group Ayus na Gamot sa Abot Kayang Presyo (AGAP) Coalition said vaccines should undergo the review of HTAC.
“We have advocated for the HTA process under the Universal Health Care law to ensure evidenced-based interventions,” Tanquieng said.
“We just hope that the process will not take long enough to complete so as not to hinder the continuous provision for this important vaccine,” she said.
“It’s always best to have a public bidding, because competition will give you the best price. It is transparent,” noted Tom Syquija, former Executive Director of Procurement Service- Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PS-PhilGEPS). “You get the same quality but at the lowest price. It’s always best for the public if you have competition.”
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