The fallout from the nationwide dengue vaccine ban in the Philippines continues to worsen. Former Department of Health (DOH) chief Paulyn Ubial said lawmakers pressed her to continue the dengue vaccination program, which she had long opposed, raising all kinds of additional questions into the liability for the potential damage caused.
The dengue vaccination program began in April 2016 by her predecessor Janette Garin. Ubial now says that she was extremely outspoken regarding the inclusion of the now banned dengue vaccine.
In a statement, Ubial referred to the Formulary Executive Council (FEC), which originally warned against Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia.
“I was very sad to tell the group that I wanted to stick to the first decision of the expert panel that only those who were given the first dose will continue the other doses. After which, we will stop the implementation… look at the data, and decide how to move forward,” said Ubial.
On July 18, 2016, Ubial signed a resolution which recommended that the Philippines hold off on the dengue vaccine. But other government officials were highly critical of her recommendation.
“But during the budget hearing, there was a lot of pressure in Congress to expand it to other parts of the country with higher [cases] of dengue, which is Region 7. I didn’t give in to the pressure of Congress. I told them I cannot expand to other areas because the recommendation of the expert panel,” she narrated.
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“But I was pushed [and asked], ‘Why can’t you have a 2nd opinion?’” added Ubial.
And things get worse.
Janette Garin, who is Ubial’s predecessor, is married to Iloilo 1st District Representative Oscar Garin Jr. Oscar is the older brother of AAMBIS-OWA and House Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin. Ubial now claims that it was Oscar Garin who told her to use more budget to purchase more dengue vaccines. This meant children who had already received one or two dengue vaccines would get third and fourth dosings. She also claims House Deputy speaker and Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwendolyn Garcia came down hard on her, pressuring her regarding her position on the vaccine.
“At the end of that one-hour exchanges of questions and badgering me and trying to make me commit to expand the implenetaiton of the dengue vaccine to region 7, [they told me] that they would defer the budget of the Department of Health if I do not do that,” said Ubial.