Dengvaxia mess led to immunization fears? Acosta hits back at critics

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2019 04:43 PM | Updated as of Feb 04 2019 07:01 PM

Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. ABS-CBN News

MANILA- (2nd UPDATE) Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta said Monday she shouldn't be blamed for the low immunization turnout, amid a vaccine scare following deaths supposedly linked to Dengvaxia.

This, after Health Chief Francisco Duque III urged Acosta to stop making "baseless" allegations, saying her remarks have caused "serious damage" to Filipinos' vaccine confidence as seen in the rise in measles cases.

"Galing lang 'yan sa na-demanda, ginagamit nilang diversionary tactic 'yung measles. Global ang measles outbreak," Acosta told ABS-CBN News.

(Those who have been sued are using the issue as a diversionary tactic. The measles outbreak is global.)

"Hindi trabaho ng PAO na i-promote ang mga bakuna. Kung sa Dengvaxia, nagbahay-bahay sila, nag-school based, nag-community based, bakit hindi nila ginawa sa measles vaccine? Kung sa Dengvaxia bumili sila ng P3.5 billion worth na Dengavaxia, ganiyan din ba kalaki ang ginastos nila sa measles vaccine? Ngayon, magkaroon ng measles outbreak, kasalanan ng PAO," she added.

(It is not the job of PAO to promote vaccines. If for Dengvaxia, they went house to house, they went to schools and the community, why didn't they do it for the measles vaccine? If they spent P3.5 billion for Dengvaxia, did they spend the same amount on measles vaccines? Now that there is a measles outbreak, it is suddenly the fault of PAO.)

According to Acosta, it is not her fault that DOH decided to try an experimental vaccine.

She also clarified that she is not against other vaccines.

"Hindi ko kasalan kung ang DOH nanguna na magturok ng isang experimental Dengvaxia, at hindi ako laban sa ibang bakuna," Acosta said.

(It's not my fault that DOH decided to use an experimental Dengvaxia. I am not against other vaccines. I am not questioning other vaccines, except Dengvaxia.)

Acosta was also unfazed by calls to file charges against her.

“Eh 'di idemanda niya (Sue me),” she said.

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The two officials had long been at odds over the government's suspended dengue immunization program.

The PAO chief is leading an intensive investigation into alleged deaths due to the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and has filed several complaints on the issue.

Acosta had claimed they have autopsied the bodies of 113 alleged victims but that the total number of those affected has reached 600.

Duque and other health experts meanwhile have repeatedly insisted that there is no established link between Dengvaxia and the deaths allegedly due to the vaccine.

Reports of alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia have 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. 

-report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News