Turf war: DOH seeks PAO cooperation in Dengvaxia investigation

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2018 01:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2019 05:00 PM

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MANILA - The Department of Health has yet to secure the support of the Public Attorney's Office in its parallel investigation into the deaths of several children who were injected with dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

The DOH is hoping to coordinate with PAO, which claimed finding a "pattern" that led to the deaths of at least 5 drug recipients, for tissue samples among the alleged victims, said Undersecretary Enrique Domingo.

"I've been writing several times and I've been calling and I've so far been refused a meeting with them. We're patient and the Secretary is also talking to the Secretary of Justice," he told ANC's Beyond Politics.

"We really hope that we get this cooperation working and so we can make a more complete picture not just from the clinical side but also from the pathologic side," he said.

Local health experts declared last week that there was no evidence directly linking the vaccine to any of the 14 alleged deaths investigated by the Philippine General Hospital, but Domingo said they want to complete all of the panel's recommended tests before declaring the report final.

The panel is requesting the tissue samples to be checked for dengue virus or the yellow fever virus, he said.

He said they did not want to exhume the bodies and repeat the autopsies, but they might have to ask for the parents' consent for this if they cannot secure the help of agencies like PAO, which could have small tissue samples.

"They might have some tissue samples and we really don't need much. We just really need small pieces of tissue and we can have this tested and they can be very, very helpful," he said.

Apart from PAO, the National Bureau of Investigation has also been tasked to look into "alleged danger to public health" arising from the halted vaccination drive.

Domingo said he understands PAO's reluctance in joining their investigation as the department could be one of the defendants in a case the office might file.

"They feel they might have some conflict. But we'd like to reassure them that Sec. Duque and myself we are really new to the department and we're really just after the truth and want to know what's best for the health of our children," he said.