House minority urges gov't to work with Sanofi to solve Dengvaxia issue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — Members of the House minority bloc are urging the government to work with pharmaceutical company Sanofi to swiftly find a solution to the dengue vaccine controversy over alleged health risks posed by the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Rather than playing the blame game, Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice said the government should focus and prioritize finding solutions and helping those affected.

"Dapat merong maayos na dialogue at pag-uusap between the pharmaceutical company. Hindi ko sinasabing bale-walain kung merong nagkasala, ang sinasabi ko puwede naman priority yung solusyon muna sa problema ngayon kung si PNoy at Garin e di tahimik nilang imbestigahan," Erice said.

[Translation: There should be proper dialogue between the pharmaceutical company. I'm not saying we should overlook if someone's to blame for the incident, but what I'm saying is we can find a solution first. If it's (former President) PNoy or (former DOH Chief) Garin, then they can investigate it quietly.]

"Ngayon turo agad nang turo wala naman ginagawa para bigyan ng solusyon yung problem," he added.

[Translation: Right now they keep on pointing fingers, but they aren't doing anything to solve the problem.]

Erice made the statement as the Department of Justice ordered a probe into the issue.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday former President Benigno Aquino III will be among those who are probed by the DOJ.

The government spent P3.5 billion for the purchase of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in 2015 to implement a dengue vaccine program in 2016. The program was recently suspended after Sanofi announced that the vaccine poses serious threats to those without prior dengue infection.

But for lawmakers like Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, a probe on the issue should not be a priority as there had been a previous inquiry into the vaccine program.

READ: Gov't halts dengue vaccination program due to health risk

Alejano said the House Committee on Good Government should release its report on its November 2016 to July to 2017 probe on Dengvaxia.

"Hindi correct na magsabing maginbestiga tayo dahil alam ko nagkaroon na ng investigation sa joint committee of good government and health," he said. "Ilabas na yung findings nila para makita din natin kung ano ang findings."

[Translation: It's not accurate to say we're investigating because I know there's been an investigation at the Joint Committee of Good Government and Health.]

[Translation: They should release the findings so we can see them.]

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin, who was Health Chief when the program was launched, has said she is willing to face any investigation on the issue.

She said Monday she would answer all questions on the issue "at the right time and in the appropriate forum."

READ: Former DOH Secretary ready to face probe on dengue vaccine

The Department of Health (DOH) started its dengue immunization program in April 2016.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said 733,713 children from Central Luzon, the region of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon, and Metro Manila had been administered Dengvaxia. Of these, the DOH said eight to 10 percent or about 70,000 children have had no previous dengue infection.

READ: FDA suspends sale, distribution of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia