Philippine health minister resigns over vaccine purchase

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2014 8:01 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino has accepted the resignation of his health minister 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.

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

In 2012, Ona had authorized the purchase of 833 million pesos ($18.63 million) worth of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)-10, vaccines used for the immunization 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.

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

There was no immediate reaction from the health ministry.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel)