Ex-DOH Sec. Ubial: Janette Garin's husband asked me to buy more Dengvaxia

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Former Health Secretaries Janette Garin (L) and Paulyn Ubial

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — Former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial on Thursday revealed the husband of her predecessor, Janette Garin, pressured her to continue the roll out of the now-controversial dengue vaccine program.

She said members of the House of Representatives "badgered" her into expanding the government's dengue immunization program to more regions despite the health risks of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Ubial namedropped the husband of former Health Secretary Garin, Iloilo 1st District Representative Oscar "Richard" Garin Jr., as one of the solons who pressured her during the 2018 budget hearing for the department.

"In the last budget hearing, one of the representatives that asked me to buy more dengue vaccine and put it in the 2018 budget is no other than Oscar Garin Jr.," she said during the joint hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon, Health, and Finance panels into the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy.

Ubial quoted Rep. Garin from the minutes from the budget deliberations for the Health Department last August 14.

"Point ko lang, you have to put additional budget diyan to comply for the third dose. Wala kang budget diyan for dengue vaccines. You have to put additional budget for dengue vaccine to continue this para hindi naman ma-prejudice first and second dose mo," she said quoting Rep. Garin.

Ex-DOH Secretary Garin came to the defense of her husband, saying he was only concerned in completing the three doses of vaccination.

"Listening to the minutes, he was concerned na nabakunahan ng first dose, ng second dose, paano ang third dose," she said.

Ubial also said Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwen Garcia tried to make her commit to expanding the implementation of the program to Region 7 or else "they defer the budget of Department of Health" if she does not agree.

She added, "I strongly and openly opposed at the start. When I was Health Secretary, I tried to do damage control, but again, during budget hearings I was pressured to expand to other areas."

Garcia denied Ubial's allegations, saying the former Health Secretary is looking for a scapegoat.

"I don't think anybody can pressure a Secretary of Health to do anything he or she did not believe in. Former Secretary Ubial should stop passing the blame," she said in a statement.

Over 830,000 students from Regions 3, 4A, and National Capital Region were immunized with Dengvaxia in the government's P3.5 billion national dengue immunization program. According to vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, around 10 percent of the hundreds of thousands of children now face contracting a "serious disease " because they did not have a dengue infection prior to the vaccination.

Ubial, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as Health Secretary in June, issued a resolution in July 2016 temporarily suspending the school-based dengue immunization program following the recommendation of an expert panel on dengue, composed of independent and uninvolved experts convened by Ubial.

Ubial said her reluctance in continuing the dengue vaccine program was one of the reasons why the Commission on Appointments rejected her in October.

"I am very positive my confirmation was prejudiced by this particular issue," she said.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon agreed with Ubial.

"I think one of the reasons why she was not confirmed was because of this," he said.