by Ben R. Rosario
The Commission on Audit (COA) has practically cleared former Department of Health officials behind the controversial purchase of P3.5-billion anti-dengue vaccine which is the subject of an ongoing congressional inquiry in the House of Representatives.
At yesterday’s joint hearing, the Philippine Children’s Medical Center also revealed that the government was able to get the lowest price for the tetravalent dengue vaccines despite the fact that only one company, the France-based Sanofi, manufactures the drug.
The anti-dengue vaccination program was launched last year by the PCMC and covered public elementary schools which are most susceptible to the dangers of dengue, a mosquito-borne disease.
Grilled at yesterday’s hearing, COA supervising auditor Marietta Andoy said there is nothing irregular in the process followed by the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Health and the PCMC in allocating P3.5 billion for the project that is aimed at addressing the dengue outbreak in many areas in the country.
PCMC Executive Director Julius Lecciones vouched for the reasonableness of the price of P1,000 per vaccine offered by Zuellig, the lone bidder for the project which turned out to be Sanofi’s exclusive distributor in the country.
“The DOH price of P1,100 is reasonable but in the process of the bidding we were able to throw in the collaterals,. In the end if we get a quick calculation, the cost would only be P900 per vaccine,” said Lecciones.
Former Health Secretary Janette Garin urged the House committees to make a comparison of the Philippine purchase price to three other countries that were reported to have availed of the Dengvaxia. “Our basis is WHO (World health Organization). Three other countries purchased the vaccine. I believe Thailand, Mexico and Brazil. We still procured it at the cheapest price, please check,” Garin urged lawmakers.
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