Gordon sees possible ‘conspiracy’ on ‘speed’ in anti-dengue vaccine purchase
The speed by which funds were made available for the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine may have been triggered by a “conspiracy,” Senator Richard Gordon said on Monday.
Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, also expressed fears that the P3.5 billion anti-dengue immunization program was “turning into the country’s major health nightmare.”
The senator, during the joint hearing of the Senate blue ribbon, health, and finance committees on the Dengvaxia mess, said he sees “conspiracy” in the government’s procurement of the vaccine from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur.
This, Gordon said, was because the budget for the procurement of the vaccine was not even part of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) since there was no assurance yet that the vaccine was safe to be administered.
“Merong very, very strong signs na parang may conspiracy. Unang-una, wala sa GAA yung budget para sa dengue vaccine. Pangalawa, isiningit lang nila yan, gumawa sila ng paraan para isingit,” Gordon said.
“Kaya nakakapagtaka, bisita ka nang bisita tapos bigla kang magmamadali, isisingit mo yung dengue vaccine,” he added.
Gordon pointed out that with former President Benigno S. Aquino III and former Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin having had several meetings with Sanofi officials and each meeting resulting in the acceleration of the procurement process, suspicions that the procurement may have been supply-driven instead of needs-driven were fueled.
“Ang sinasabi ko dito, is this needs-driven or supply-driven? Sa gobyerno, kapag nilalapitan ka, nililigawan ka, nagsu-supply ng gamot ‘yan o ng isang gamit na hindi kailangan masyado ng gobyerno. Pagkatapos pa nung mga meeting lalong bumibilis ang proseso,” he said.
The senator said Garin’s May 2015 meeting with Sanofi Pasteur executives, though not irregular on face value, creates a circumstantial connection leading to irregularity.
The government bought and rolled out the dengue vaccines from Sanofi in 2016, during the time of Garin as Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).
While Aquino may not have been invited to Monday’s hearing, Gordon did not clear him of any culpability in the dengue vaccine mess.
“To re-align the budget without getting approval from Congress, only someone from higher up can order this. (Former Budget and Management Secretary Florencio) Abad can’t walk 10 meters without the President knowing, especially with this kind of amount – P3.5B,” he said.
Last week, the DOH suspended the administration of Dengvaxia vaccine and ordered the close observation of those who had received it after Sanofi Pasteur bared that its vaccine “could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected” by Dengue virus.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque said the vaccine was administered to around 830,000 children in schools and communities, and to another 32,000 private patients. /kga
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