Solon renews call for cheaper pneumo vax

March 10, 2022 People's Tonight 512 views

`Bakuna budol’ must be stopped

CONGRESS has joined the urgent call to make more economical, yet equally effective, child pneumonia vaccines accessible to the public to help save the government billions of pesos in losses. This comes in the heels of an impending investigation into the so-called “bakuna budol” on the said pneumococcal vaccine.

Congressman Jose “Bonito” Singson, Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is the main signatory to House Resolution 2492 which urges the Department of Health (DOH) to study and evaluate the efficacy of PCV10 and PCV13. Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that PCV 10 and PCV 13 are at parity and not inferior to each other. However, since 2014, the Philippines’ childhood immunization program has been using the more expensive PCV13, which is the only pneumonia vaccine made available in the Philippine market.

“If there is a monopoly in the pneumonia vaccine that is tricking the government into buying the more expensive PCVs, this defeats the purpose of providing more pneumonia protection to our children,” Singson explains.

He also warns that “the government might be unnecessarily spending on these more costly PCVs when there are more cost-effective yet equally effective ones available.”

In July 2020, the DOH’s Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) also reported that PCV10 is more affordable than PCV13, emphasizing that “a lower-priced vaccine would be more favorable to ensure higher vaccine coverage on a per-dose basis.” It also found that the effectiveness of the more affordable PCV10 in reducing pneumonia is equal to that of PCV 13.

Singson had mentioned in a recent Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel forum that Congress will summon big pharmaceutical companies to probe deeper into the so-called bakuna budol or the controversy on the pneumococcal vaccine procurement.

“It is usually the people who are marginalized that are at risk for getting pneumonia. Procurement issues with the vaccine are roadblocks to our goal of universal healthcare and so we need to get to the root of this issue,” the chairman says. “The Congress is acting on this issue because proving the existence of a monopoly shows that the government is losing billions of pesos while possibly depriving more children to be vaccinated against child pneumonia.”

“We will look into this matter closely until we get the clarification, we need so we can make the best decisions not only for the parties that are involved, but more importantly, for our children, the future of this country,” adds Singson.

UNICEF has cited child pneumonia as one of the leading causes of morbidity, taking the life of a child every 39 seconds.

In an earlier media forum, United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) national consultant Jonathan Dela Cruz contended that the government was overcharged billions of pesos by a single pharmaceutical company when it procured the costlier PCV13. The UFCC filed a complaint to the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), alleging a “bakuna budol” that has led to an “anti-competition” malpractice.