Health sec yields to Congress blackmail
New Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial was at one time against the use of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, but she has changed her mind after the House appropriations committee threatened to reduce her department budget, the National Committee on Urban Pest Control (NCUPC) reports. President Duterte has alerted the environment, health, agriculture and budget departments to act on the NCUPC report.
Dengvaxia is manufactured by Sanofi, a giant French multinational. According to Scientific American, Dengvaxia is not a total cure. It simply reduces “the chances of developing the disease by about 60%.” Also, it is “approved for use (only) in people 9 to 45 years old.”
If it is not safe for certain ages, then its entire safety is questionable. Sanofi’s claim that it is “safe” based on three phases of clinical tests whose details have not been disclosed, is questionable. It’s the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that must make the tests, not the makers.
Dengvaxia, a worldwide monopoly, costs a staggering P3,000-5,000 per person. Sanofi has an ingenious marketing strategy for such a highway robbery. It sells to Third World governments which are easy to “convince” to allocate a big budget. Thus, the Department of Health has a whopping P3-billion vaccine program. To complete the stranglehold, Sanofi has no local distributors and deals directly with the DOH, says NCUPC. The P3-billion DOH dengue program targets mostly just Grade 4 students. How about the rest? More budget?
That a foreign multinational has so much power to influence government health policies is appalling. So far, Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines are the first victims, with India coming up next. In the United States, there are many vaccine controversies.
Environmentalists argue that attacking the mosquito is cheaper and more effective than attacking the virus with a questionable vaccine. Local fumigants cost as little as P600 per barangay.
Does Sanofi have tentacles in the FDA which approved the Dengvaxia license in a midnight decision just before the 2016 elections? The NCUPC alleges so. Tests normally take years. Does our FDA approve without tests if the US FDA approves, not knowing that it is also controlled by pharmaceutical giants?
We are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the congressional blackmail, and to compel the DOH to suspend the use of Dengvaxia until further studies. Our health decisions must be made by us, not by foreign multinationals looking for sudden windfalls.
BERNIE V. LOPEZ,
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