Ranking solon presses for ‘bakuna budol’ probe – Manila Bulletin

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Bonito Singson, representative of the Probinsyano Ako party list, has intensified his calls for the Department of Health (DOH) to investigate alleged vaccine pricing deception or the “bakuna budol” controversy.

(Facebook photo of Rep. Jose “Bonito” C. Singson Jr.)

Singson, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is the lead signatory to House Resolution (HR) No. 2492, which urges the Department of Health (DOH) to study and evaluate the efficacy of PCV10 and PCV13.

PCV10 and PCV13 are two variants of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV). The World Health Organization (WHO) previously stated that PCV10 and PCV13 are on par or as effective as the other.

However, since 2014, the childhood immunization program in the Philippines has been using the more expensive PCV13, which is incidentally the only locally available pneumonia vaccine.

“If there is a monopoly on the pneumonia vaccine that incentivizes the government to buy the most expensive VCPs, it defeats the purpose of providing more protection against pneumonia for our children,” said Singson.

“The government could be spending unnecessarily on these more expensive VCPs when there are other more cost-effective but equally effective ones,” the House Leader noted.

Tabled in the House of Representatives on February 14, HR No. 2492 specifically urges the DOH to “study, consider, review, and evaluate the effectiveness of VCPs prequalified, approved, and recommended by the World Health Organization ( WHO)”.

Singson had mentioned in a recent Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel forum that the House would summon major pharmaceutical companies to investigate the so-called bakuna budol more deeply.

“It is usually marginalized people who are at risk of contracting pneumonia. Supply issues with the vaccine are impediments to our goal of universal health care and so we need to get to the root of this issue,” he said.

“Congress is acting on this issue because proving a monopoly exists shows the government losing billions of pesos while possibly depriving more children of childhood pneumonia vaccines,” he added.

In July 2020, the DOH’s Health Technology Assessment Board (HTAC) highlighted that PCV10 is more affordable than PCV13. “A cheaper vaccine would be more favorable to ensure higher vaccination coverage on a per-dose basis.”

More importantly, it also found that the effectiveness of the more affordable PCV10 in reducing pneumonia is equal to that of PCV 13.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has cited childhood pneumonia as one of the leading causes of morbidity, killing a child every 39 seconds.

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