MANILA (UPDATE) - Newly confirmed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said Public Attorney's Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta has been uncooperative with his department's investigation on the now suspended dengue immunization program.
Speaking to reporters, Duque said Acosta has not been responsive to the health department's letters seeking a copy of PAO's report which claimed finding a "pattern" that allegedly led to the death of at least 5 recipients of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Asked to confirm Acosta's statement that she has been cooperating with the DOH investigation, Duque said: “She’s not."
"Usec. Eric Domingo has written letters to them, but there’s no response. So what are they talking about? We wrote them letters asking to help each other,” Duque said.
Acosta, however, denied being uncooperative, saying she has responded to letters of the department.
"We had a reply sent to Usec. Domingo. He (Duque) must ask Usec. Domingo for the copies of our replies," she said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
The PAO chief added that the health department has not heeded a request for a copy of the list of all children injected with Dengvaxia under the immunization program.
"What cooperation does he want? We are asking for the master list of Dengvac (dengue vaccine) children but until now wala sila ibinibigay," she said.
Duque said there is a need for a complementation of the findings of PAO over the Dengvaxia investigation.
“'Yung tissues or autopsy results kailangan gamitin 'yun kasama ang clinical audit and medical report na ginawa ng expert panel ng UP-PGH, at magkaroon ng complementation, hindi 'yung pinaglalaban, kundi complementation, synergy of the findings by the two groups,” he said.
Acosta, however, said the health department can instead perform autopsies on the cadavers of 14 children vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
"They may conduct autopsies [of] their 14 cases that was subject of the Friday [press conference] anytime if parents would give consent to it," she said, in reference to findings earlier bared to media.
Government suspended the dengue immunization program in December following the admission of drug manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur that its dengue vaccine Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms if given to those who had not contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
Some 830,000 public school students were inoculated with Dengvaxia under the campaign launched by the previous administration in 2015.
At least 5 vaccine recipients died less than 6 months after receiving the drug, the PAO claimed, but local health experts said there was no evidence directly linking the vaccine to any of the 14 alleged deaths investigated by the Philippine General Hospital.
-with reports from Vivienne Gulla and Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News