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Nograles eyes passage of P1.16B budget for Dengvaxia aid next week

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By Xave Gregorio

House appropriations committee chair Rep. Karlo Nograles is eyeing the passage on final reading a measure allotting a P1.16 billion supplemental budget to be used for assistance to the nearly 900,000 recipients of the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.

Nograles’ panel on Tuesday (May 22) passed the measure, which has been certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

A bill certified as urgent may be passed on final reading immediately after the second reading.

“Ang hinihiling natin, mahabol ngayon bago mag-recess, by end of May. So ‘pag na-approve siya by end of May at na-approve ng President, then by June, July we can use it already,” said Health undersecretary Rolando Domingo.

Congress is set to go on break again after the sine die adjournment on June 1. Sessions would not resume until July 23.

Of the P1.16 billion sought to be alloted for Dengvaxia recipients, P945,827,530 would be earmarked for medical assistance to all those inoculated with the anti-dengue vaccine.

Domingo said all recipients of the controversial vaccine would be able to receive medical assistance for all ailments.

“Our projections will include all illnesses,” Domingo said. “We will cover as long as Dengvaxia vaccinee siya at may card,” he continued, referring to the cards distributed to those given the vaccine.

“Ang usapan kasi natin dito, I don’t care if it is clinically related to Dengvaxia or what, basta any illness kung itong naturukan ng Dengvaxia na bata ay nagkasakit kahit anomang sakit ‘yan, kahit na arguably related to Dengvaxia or what, basta nagkasakit, naospital tutulungan natin,” Nograles said.

The panel also amended Section 5 of the bill to extend the life of the Dengvaxia assistance supplemental budget, sourced from the refund of the unused anti-dengue vaccines from its manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur, until the funds have been completely used up.

The P945,827,530 for medical assistance is split into P726,872,330 for assistance to admitted patients in hospitals and P218,955,200 for assistance to outpatients.

Meanwhile, the panel seeks to allot P148,296,250 for public health management, P78,296,250 of which would be alloted for the salaries of 1,250 nurses who would be deployed to monitor and assist all Dengvaxia recipients every day for three months.

Part of the public health management fund would also be alloted to supplies and medicine (P45 million) and the production of Dengvaxia assistance cards (P25 million).

Around P67,586,220 is also sought to pay the salaries of 382 more nurses who will be providing counselling, lectures, disease prevention and health promotion, monitoring and follow-up of Dengvaxia recipients for five months in Regions III, IV-A, NCR and VII.

“Mga developments ito na nagpapatotoo na merong ipinaglalaban ang mga nabakunahan. Merong pinaglalaban, dahil bakit sila bibigyan sila ng libreng ospital, libreng gamot libreng laboratory test kung hindi sila biktima at hindi sila kailangang i-reparate o bayaran ng gobyerno?” said Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta.

Domingo, however, maintained that a direct link has not yet been established between Dengvaxia and the 87 deaths of children who were inoculated with the vaccine.

“Although … kahit sabihing wala pang direct link we’re always thinking of the possibility na meron talagang link ‘yung vaccination sa any illness or death ng child,” he said.

A similar measure to use the Dengvaxia refund has been filed by Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda is pending in a committee in the upper chamber.