House panel hails DOH on pneumonia vaccines review

December 13, 2019

THE chairperson of the House Committee on Health has lauded the Department of Health (DoH) for its swift action on the suspended bidding for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs).

“I am happy to hear that. I appreciate the move of the DOH to call for a swift 30-day review of the pediatric vaccines for pneumococcal diseases,” said Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, the chairperson of the House health committee.

“The assessment must really be finished soon considering the continued threat posed by pneumonia on children,” said Tan.

Tan’s pronouncement was made in light of the DOH’s order to the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to complete the assessment for the PCV tender within one month.

In an earlier press briefing, Dr. Anna Ong Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, revealed, “Pneumonia is a very common disease in children. Of the hundreds of countries in the world, the Philippines is included in the top 15 countries in terms of pneumonia deaths, and those 15 countries are responsible for 75% of all deaths from pneumonia.”

Lim also noted that both PCV10 and PCV13 help in controlling the overall disease burden from pneumococcal diseases.

Earlier this month, the DOH suspended the first call for tender for pneumonia vaccines in response to public clamor that biddings should be open and competitive.

“Biddings should not favor a single brand,” Tan stressed. “I’m into open, competitive bidding because bids should not lean on certain companies. ‘Pag nagse-set ka ng medicine and supplies that you need, dumadaan sa recommendation ng HTAC at tinitignan nila kung ano yung cost-effective.”

According to medical experts, open competitive bidding for vaccines is good for the Philippines because an open bid can save hundreds of millions of pesos year after year that can be used for public health initiatives by the government and save more lives and address more diseases.

Another advantage of open bidding is that it will help ensure the government and the public will benefit from competitive pricing and incentives from the broadest set of possible bidders.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo, in turn, revealed that although the DOH has always called for open tenders, the original call for bidding for PCVs had specifications that catered to just one vaccine brand.

“Specifications for biddings should be generic so that all brands and suppliers can participate,” Domingo noted. “We will also refer it to the National Immunization Committee (NIC) to see the vaccines’ cost-effectiveness.”

The WHO in February reaffirmed an earlier position, which declared that the two available PCVs in the market are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children.

The position paper also stated that there is at present insufficient evidence of a difference in the net impact of the two available PCVs on overall disease burden.

In a systematic review of the evidence of the impact and effectiveness of PCV, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) said that available evidence to date indicates significant impact of both PCV10 and PCV13 in the outcomes studied, with no evidence of the superiority of one vaccine over the other on pneumonia, IPD, or meningitis hospitalization reduction in children under 5 years old.

PAHO also reported that, globally, it has been estimated that pneumococcal pneumonia has decreased by more than a third and deaths due to pneumococcal infections by 51% from 2000 to 2015, following the introduction of the PCVs in many countries.

In turn, the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), in their 2017 PCV product assessment which was based on a comprehensive review of published data, also declared that current evidence does not indicate an added benefit with one vaccine over the other.