By Ellson Quismorio
Ranking members of the House of Representatives believe their Senate counterparts will immediately approve their version of the proposed P1.16-billion supplemental budget, which will act as stand-by medical assistance fund for Dengvaxia vaccinees.
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas second district, CIBAC Party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, and Davao City first district Rep. Karlo Nograles all believe that senators would act on the supplemental budget Monday, the first day of the third regular session and the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The supplemental budget aims to make use of the P1.16 billion refunded to the government earlier this year by Sanofi Pasteur, makers of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Sanofi itself had previously admitted that the drug was faulty as it could worsen symptoms for children who have never contracted dengue fever before but were administered with drug anyway.
“I trust the Senate leadership that it will prioritize the passage of the supplemental budget on the resumption of our session because we we need to provide medical assistance to the patients now,” Abu said.
It can be recalled that the House of Representatives has already approved its version of the supplemental budget measure on third and final reading in May. But for it to get enacted, the Senate bill must also be approved.
“I believe this will be approved when we resume session starting tomorrow (Monday). I know the Senate did their best,” Tugna said, referring to the Upper Chamber’s failure to pass the supplemental budget before the sine die adjournment in May.
“It is but right to extend assistance to Dengvaxia recipients who were most affected by the effects of the vaccine,” stressed the solon, who chairs the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.
An estimated 900,000 individuals–the vast majority of whom were schoolchildren–received Dengvaxia doses as part of the previous Aquino administration’s P3-billion mass vaccination program against dengue.
“Every day that passes by is crucial for the families whose children were administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine, and our fellow lawmakers in the Senate know this,” noted Nograles who is the House appropriations committee chairman.
“At this point there is already a tragic pattern of deaths among children who were part of the inoculation program, and our top priority should be to break this pattern by ensuring that we are able to monitor and prevent deaths that may be tied to the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine; passing this supplemental budget is the best way to achieve this,” he said.
“I see Senate President Tito Sotto as a man of action, and I’m confident he and the rest of the Senate will act in a timely manner for the sake of all these Filipino children,” stressed the Mindanao solon.
While waiting for the supplemental budget to be enacted, Nograles earlier advised the Department of Health (DOH) headed by Secretary Francisco Duque III to immediately start profiling Dengvaxia victims using the agency’s existing funds.
Nograles said the database from the profiling efforts would make it easier for the DOH and other government agencies to provide assistance to the victims once the additional funds are available.
Sanofi’s partial refund covered the unused Dengvaxia vials that were returned by the Health department.