MANILA – The release of the contents of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee draft report on its investigation into the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia took Sen. Risa Hontiveros by surprise.
Hontiveros said the contents of the “unsigned” and “unnumbered” draft report were announced to the press even before copies were given to the committee members.
“Ganyan na ba ngayon sa Senate Blue Ribbon Committee?” said Hontiveros, a Blue Ribbon Committee member. She has not yet received a copy of the draft report as of posting time.
Richard Gordon, committee chairman, announced last Wednesday that they were recommending charges against officials involved in the purchase and rollout of the vaccine.
Former president Benigno Aquino III, former Health secretary Janette Garin, former Budget secretary Florencio Abad, among others, must be held “criminally liable” for the Dengvaxia mess, the committee said.
They “must be prosecuted for all the tragedy, damage and possible deaths resulting from the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program,” Gordon said, reading from the draft report.
“Nakakalungkot at lalo tuloy bumibigat ang obserbasyon ng marami na nagiging politikal na ang imbestigasyong ito,” said Hontiveros.
The Senate looked into the dengue vaccine after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur disclosed last year that Dengvaxia could lead to severe symptoms for those not previously infected by the virus.
At the time at least 800,000 school children have already been inoculated. The Aquino administration launched in 2016 the world’s first public dengue immunization under a P3.4-billion program.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducted a total of seven hearings on the controversy.
“I reserve my opinion on the accused individuals pending the release of the copies of the said report to the members of the committee,” said Hontiveros.
Still, she stressed, Sanofi Pasteur must be “called to task” for “withholding information” about the vaccine.
“I also reiterate my call for the pharmaceutical company to compensate the families of those affected by the product,” Hontiveros said./PN