MANILA (Mabuhay) -– Department of Health officer-in-charge Janette Garin on Tuesday assured the public that the controversy involving the questionable purchase of pneumonia vaccines will not affect the agency’s delivery of services.
Garin said there have been delays in the distribution of the vaccine, but the DOH sees to it the correct ones are given to the patients.
”Vaccination has saved a lot of lives. Kung merong ganitong issues, titignan naming ito at kung sino ang dapat managot, eh mananagot. We respect the rule of law, but allow us to appeal that vaccination is a very important aspect of public health. Dapat ‘di maapektuhan ang vaccination program,” she said.
DOH secretary on-leave Enrique Ona and spokesperson Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag are being probed over the questionable purchase of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines 10 (PCV 10) by the Department of Health (DOJ) in 2012 worth P833 million.
The PCV 10 purchase became controversial because it was done by the DOH contrary to the recommendation by the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management, Formulary Executive Council, and the World Health Organization to purchase the “more cost effective” PCV 13 which covers several pulmonary diseases.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima earlier said she instructed the National Bureau of Investigation as early as June to conduct a “discreet” probe, which has turned into an “open investigation” recently after Ona went on leave to prepare his explanation on the matter.
Ona reportedly issued the required certificate of exemption for the PCV 10 procurement, while its purchase was recommended by Tayag.
Garin said she learned that after the purchase of the PCV 10 vaccines, the implementation of the program also suffered from delays after the World Health Organization deemed that those who will administer them undergo further training.
”Iyung epekto nito would be the delay in the implementation, pero sinisigurado ng DOH na walang nabigyan na bata ng bakuna na makakasama sa kalusugan,” she said.
She said while there have been questions on Ona and Tayag’s motives for approving the purchase of a much inferior type of vaccine, it would still be best to let them air their side.
”Sa sitwasyon na ito mahirap pa magsalita hanggang lumabas ang dokumento because ang alegasyon na maski ito ang ini-rekomenda eh ito ang binili. Pwede pa kasing pakinggan ang both sides. Bakit ito ang ini-rekomenda at bakit ganoon ang naging desisyon ni Asec Tayag at Sec. Ona?” she said.
Sean Velches, president of National Orthopedic Hospital Workers’ Union – Alliance of Health Workers, meanwhile, said the vaccine mess might just be the final nail in the coffin for Ona.
”Matagal na kaming nagka-campaign na panagutin si Ona hindi lang sa issue ng bakuna, kundi sa privatizatio ng public hospitals, pagpapabaya sa mga health workers. Ngayong nabulatlat ang ganitong kalse ng katiwalian, sa tingin namin kailangan nang tuluyan ng pangulong Aquino si Sec. Ona,” he said.
Ona has reportedly earned the ire of President Aquino after he requested for a bigger allocation for the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) amid the possible spread of the Ebola virus in the Philippines.
Ona supposedly requested for P600 million for the RITM, even if reports quoted the amount as P500 million.
The health chief also supposedly irritated the president after requesting that a P3-million Toyota Land Cruiser and a Toyota Hilux be issued to him and an undersecretary. (MNS)