ANTI-corruption advocates on Tuesday urged Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd to place under preventive suspension several officials of the Department of Health (DoH) involved in the anti-dengue immunization program in 2016.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) wants health officials who played a role in the procurement and allowed Dengvaxia to be administered to school children aged nine years old and above be suspended until the investigation into the dengue vaccine controversy is completed.
Dante Jimenez, VACC chairman, said his group was able to obtain the names of incumbent DoH officials who were among those who took part in the procurement of the vaccine and implementation of the school-based dengue immunization program.
The VACC said the DoH should suspend Undersecretaries Carol Taino, office of administration, finance and procurement; Lilibeth David, Office for Policy and Health Systems; Gerardo Bayugo, Office for Technical Services (OTS); and Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy, OTS; and Nestor Santiago, Office for Field Implementation and Management.
The VACC also asked Duque to also suspend Directors Larry Cruz, Financial and Management Service; Joyce Ducusin, Disease Prevention and Control Bureau; and Mar Wynn Bello, Health Promotion and Communication Service; as well as Regional Directors Leonila Gorgolon, Rio Magpantay and Ariel Valencia.
“We are respectfully proposing to Secretary Duque to suspend these officials pending the results of the investigation of Congress, and the National Bureau of Investigation,” Jimenez said.
The VACC chairman also said it was only proper for the Health department to suspend the officials since they were there when the administration of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd made the P3.5-billion Dengvaxia procurement.
At the same time the VACC also called on Duque to act on its request to provide the list of children who received the vaccine but has not been infected with dengue, in order to allow proper monitoring.
VACC, an organization that have been actively helping Dengvaxia recipients, insisted that the list was important in order for them to help in the monitoring of the children and somehow provide assistance to them.
There were more than 850,000 children inoculated with Dengvaxia, but until now the DoH has yet to come up with exact number of children who have not been infected with the disease.
“We are calling on the DoH as well as the DepEd to focus on the identification of these children to save them from possible health risks,” Jimenez added.
No less than Sanofi, the pharmaceutical company that created Denvaxia, has admitted that Dengvaxia could increase risk of hospitalization for dengue and severe dengue on individuals who have not been previously infected by the disease.
To date, two children who have received the vaccine in 2016 have died allegedly due to severe dengue. Both never had dengue before they were inoculated with the anti-dengue vaccine.