MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday told Public Attorney's Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta to stop throwing "baseless" allegations over the government's suspended dengue vaccination program.
Duque said Acosta's statements have caused "serious damage" to the Department of Health's reputation and work, noting the decline in Filipinos' vaccine confidence.
"Unfortunately, my fellow public servants at PAO led by Atty. Persida Acosta refuse to cooperate and continue to attack and throw baseless claims and accusations at the DOH and myself," Duque said.
"I strongly call on those with negative intentions to stop propagating baseless allegations and stop harassing our staff," he added.
The PAO has filed several complaints on alleged deaths due to the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which drew controversy in late 2017 over its maker's warning of severe dengue symptoms on those who have never had dengue.
Acosta had claimed they have autopsied the bodies of 113 alleged victims but that the total number of those affected has reached 600.
The DOH and several health experts, however, have repeatedly insisted that there is no established link between Dengvaxia and the deaths allegedly due to the vaccine.
Duque also cried foul on the alleged bullying and harassment of health workers assisting Filipinos, particularly in poor communities.
"I am deeply disappointed that our efforts to provide any form of help are twisted and taken negatively," he said.
"Even our staff on the ground facilitating the support groups are being bullied and harassed at every instance," he added.
The Philippines in 2017 recalled Dengvaxia from the market and cancelled the government's dengue immunization program after French drug maker Sanofi Pasteur admitted that the vaccine may cause severe dengue when administered to patients who have never contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
It spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.