APART from being the head of the Department of Health (DoH), former Secretary Janette Garin also held positions at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) when the government procured Dengvaxia, the P3.5 billion dengue vaccine in 2015, the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said on Sunday.
Sen. Richard Gordon said Garin sat in concurrent capacity as FDA administrator, which played a crucial role in the procurement and administration of Dengvaxia in the Philippines.
It was FDA that issued the license and approved Dengvaxia for distribution and use in the country on December 2015.
Gordon said that a request to exempt Dengvaxia from the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF) was also submitted and approved by Garin.
The PNDF is an integral component of the Philippine Medicines Policy, which aims to make quality essential drugs available, accessible, efficacious, safe and affordable.
On December 29, 2015, a day after the exemption request was approved, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), then headed by Secretary Florencio Abad, issued the special allotment release order (SARO) to the DoH for the procurement of vaccines.
By January 21, the PCMC, where Garin sat as board chairman, made a purchase order for the vaccine from Zuelig Pharmaceutical, the supplier and distributor of the vaccine in the country.
Gordon said the takeover of Garin as administrator of FDA during the time of the procurement of the vaccine was highly unacceptable because as administrator she would have the authority to grant the request of DoH, which she was also heading.
“There are very, very strong signs of conspiracy,” said Gordon in an interview aired over dzBB.
But apart from Garin, the blue ribbon chairman said former president Benigno Aquino 3rd and Abad should also explain their actions that led to the government’s procurement of the vaccine that was not even recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Aquino met with the officials of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur on two separate occasions — the first was on November 9, 2014 in China where he met with the company’s vice president in the Asia region, and the second was on December 2015 in Paris.
“After that meeting it seems that everything went on smoothly for Sanofi,” he added.
The blue ribbon and Senate Committee on Health and Demography headed by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito will begin its hearing on the vaccine controversy on Monday, December 11.
Gordon said the committee expected Garin to appear, along with other former and incumbent health officials, including PCMC Executive Director Julius Lecciones, who claimed that it was Garin who ordered them to procure the vaccine.
Also expected to attend were representatives of Sanofi and Zuelig and parents of those who have been inoculated with Dengvaxia.
Gordon said he also wanted former health secretary Paulyn Ubial who could also provide additional information regarding the vaccine.
Ubial, during his term as head of the DoH, tried to stop the dengue immunization program started by Garin but was allegedly pressured by several lawmakers to continue the program.
Gordon said Ubial should identify the public officials who pressured the DoH to continue the dengue immunization to schoolchildren.
A DOH insider is also expected to be presented by the committee to expose what transpired with the procurement of the controversial vaccine.