Philippine health secretary resigns over vaccine purchase

Philippine health secretary resigns over vaccine purchase

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has accepted the resignation of his health secretary over the purchase of pneumonia vaccines in 2012 which government investigators later questioned, a spokesman said on Friday.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who has been on leave since October, submitted his letter of resignation on Thursday even before the completion of a government inquiry into four deals at his ministry.

"The President has accepted his resignation effective today," Herminio Coloma, the president's press secretary, told reporters in a text message.

Mr Aquino was elected in 2010 on a platform of good governance and a firm stand against corruption.

In 2012, Mr Ona had authorised the purchase of 833 million pesos (S$24 million) worth of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)-10, vaccines used for the immunisation of children against pneumonia, government investigators said.

They said the health department should have bought PCV-13, a more cost-effective vaccine which could also be used for adults to prevent pneumonia.

Mr Ona, a surgeon and a kidney transplant expert, could not be reached for comment.

There was no immediate reaction from the health ministry.

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