MANILA (Mabuhay) – The National Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the Department of Health’s purchase of more expensive vaccines in 2012 despite a recommendation to buy more cost-effective ones.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made the remark on the heels of Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s decision to take a leave of absence.
No less than President Benigno Aquino III last week said Ona took the leave to prepare his explanation as regards issues surrounding the country’s immunization program.
“The NBI is conducting an investigation into the procurement by the DOH of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 (PCV 10) contrary to the recommendation of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management (NCPAM), the Formulary Executive Council (FEC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommended PCV 13 which is said to be more cost-effective,” De Lima told reporters.
De Lima said the 2012 procurement for the vaccines was upon the “direction” of Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag and “made possible by a certificate of exemption issued by Secretary Ona.”
Ona has said that he went on leave to “extensively answer” the President’s questions on the Health Department’s immunization and other public health programs.
Earlier, Aquino said he asked Ona to reassess the immunization program, prompting the latter to go on a personal leave.
On what report he is preparing, Ona said that aside from the immunization program, he would also include inputs on the government’s hospital reform program.
Malacañang earlier expressed confidence that Ona would be able to explain himself.
Pressed in a recent news briefing if Aquino was suspecting corruption or any other anomaly with the implementation of the DOH’s immunization program, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said: “Ang Pangulo na mismo ang nagsabi na ang period ng pagkakaroon ng official leave ay inaakalang magiging sapat para maipaliwanag ang lahat ng mga isyu.”
“Iyon naman ang pahayag ng Pangulo. Hinihintay niya ‘yung paliwanag dahil nais niyang magkaroon ng clarification regarding certain issues on the implementation of public health policy,” Coloma said. (MNS)