Solons ask DOH to revise plans for budget to help Dengvaxia vaccinees

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Lawmakers want the Health Department to revise its plan on how to use a proposed supplemental budget to assist those vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday asked the House of Representatives to release a supplemental budget worth P1.49 billion to help over 890,000 children immunized with the controversial dengue vaccine.

The supplemental budget will tap the P1.16-billion refund by dengue vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur for unused vials of Dengvaxia after the government shelved its dengue immunization program over health possible risks.

Health officials told members of the House Appropriations Committee the department will set aside P84 million for medical assistance for Dengvaxia vaccinees who will be hospitalized. Patients with dengue will get P16,000, while those with other illnesses will get around P13,500.

The outpatient care package will have the lion's share with P776 million. Officials said the over 800,000 people who received Dengvaxia will be given P750 each to pay for laboratory tests.

"These are on account of the clamor. This is in the sensitivity of the parents of vaccinees and they have actually made this request time and again," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

But Appropriations Committee Chairman Karlo Nograles questioned the laboratory tests for all vaccinees.

"Hindi naman one size fits all ito e. Bakit iche-check ng CBC (complete blood count test), walang fever? Bakit uubusin ang pera sa ganitong klaseng laboratory test kung wala pang sintomas? Hindi ganito, CBC, urinalysis for all vaccinees. That's a waste of money," he said.

Also in the budget is P270 million for medical kits that will be handed out to over 890,000 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

The medical kit will contain a thermometer, multivitamins, and mosquito repellant. Nograles objected to this, saying the Health Department can do away with the medical kits.

"Let's focus on profiling these children para magkampante ang loob ng ating mga magulang dito. I'd scrap that medical kit," the lawmaker said.

Duque insisted the medical kit was a frequent request of concerned parents, which is why they decided to include it in the proposal. But Nograles was also firm against it.

"Kami sa Congress ang magsasabi kung saan ilalagay ang P270 million and right now I'm saying no," he said.

Nograles asked Health officials to submit a revised budget next week.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said President Rodrigo Duterte is urging Congress to pass a law to allow the use of the ₱1.16 billion refunded from Sanofi Pasteur for the medical needs of children injected with Dengvaxia.

Sanofi Pasteur in November 2017 announced the vaccine posed potentially severe dengue risks among those with no dengue history. This prompted the government to halt the nationwide immunization program which was launched under the Aquino administration in April 2016.