Former President Benigno Aquino 3rd told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that his decision to approve the purchase of P3.5billion worth of anti-dengue “Dengvaxia” vaccines was based on experts’ initial advice that the drug was safe, according to the report of the Manila Times Online on Friday (Dec 15).
“It was my belief at that time, all the experts that we had consulted, it was safe,” Aquino said in a briefing after attending the Senate hearing into the vaccine deal with the French pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur.
The former president insisted that he had to make a decision to address the rising number of dengue cases and avoid getting blamed for inaction on the problem.
The committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon who led the probe questioned the speed with which the vaccination program was funded – less than 30 days and after Aquino met with some officials of Sanofi in Paris on Dec 1, 2015.
Aquino confirmed that he, indeed, met with Sanofi officials in Paris at the sidelines of his attendance to the Conference of Parties climate change meeting.
“From our perspective, the choice is simple. We can implement this at this in time for the protection or wait at least a year as a minimum and expose our people to a risk that could have been prevented because of this vaccine,” he said.
The former president noted that before and after he approved the purchase of the vaccine, no one had advised him about any objection to the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption (Vacc) claimed in a position paper submitted to the Senate panel that Aquino committed plunder when he allowed the release of the fund for the vaccine deal and extended favor to Sanofi.
Vacc also noted that Aquino should have known that no country was undertaking or intended to undertake a subnational vaccination program considering the lack of testing and clinical trials have not been completed.