Dengvaxia brouhaha fails to derail ex-DOH chief’s bid for Lower House seat

ILOILO – The Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine controversy has not affected the candidacy of former Health secretary Janette Garin. She overwhelmingly won the congressional race in the 1st District.

Garin got 121,503 votes, four times more than rival retired police general Gerardo Flores’ 27,658 votes in the recent midterm elections.

A medical doctor by profession, Garin said, “The people in the 1st District are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what is the truth and what is not true.”

During the campaign, Flores cited the Dengvaxia controversy as among the reasons why voters should shun Garin.

As Health secretary, Garin launched a dengue vaccination program in 2016 in three highly endemic regions (National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon), with over 800,000 public school children nine years old and above receiving at least one dose of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Around P3.5 billion was disbursed by the Aquino administration to purchase three million doses of Dengvaxia.

But in November 2017 the Department of Health (DOH) suspended the P3.5-billion anti-dengue immunization drive after pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur announced that its Dengvaxia could lead to a more severe form of dengue for persons vaccinated but never had the infection before.

In April last year, Garin accused unnamed political rivals of exploiting the Dengvaxia vaccine controversy to hit her family. She denied any wrongdoing in DOH’s anti-dengue vaccination program.

The Garins are the acknowledged political kingpins in the District composed of the municipalities of Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miag-ao, San Joaquin, Igbaras, and Tubungan.

In March this year, the Department of Justice found probable cause to indict Garin and several others for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the deaths of eight children who received the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

After her election victory last week, Garin said, “Hanggod gid katama ang kabaraslan ko kag ang amon pamilya sa ginpakita sang taga-premier distrito.”

On June 30, Garin will formally assume office as congresswoman of the 1st District – a position she held for three consecutive terms or nine straight years from 2004 to 2013./PN


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