DOJ wants right expert to look into alleged Dengvaxia deaths

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2018 01:19 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2018 10:32 AM

MANILA - A clinical pathologist or someone with the right expertise should look into deaths suspected to be related to the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday. 

Aguirre said such expert would be necessary to finally determine whether or not there is a link between the vaccine and the deaths of those given anti-dengue shots. 

The official said he would discuss the matter in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials on the dengue vaccine scare on Thursday.

“I am going to emphasize that we need a clinical pathologist or an expert on this matter. It need not be a Filipino, it could come from abroad who can establish definitely the linkage between Dengvaxia and the death or injuries suffered by these children,” Aguirre told reporters on Wednesday. 

The Department of Health stopped the administration of Dengvaxia last year after its manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, said it might increase the risk of severe dengue among those immunized who have not yet contracted the mosquito-borne disease. 

The House of Representatives is investigating the vaccine mess as 830,000 inoculated school children in the massive vaccination drive continue to be monitored. The Senate earlier held hearings on the state immunization program. 

In the meantime, Aguirre said the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), an agency under the justice department, would continue to exhume and conduct autopsies on suspected Dengvaxia deaths. 

He doused the call of the Doctors for Public Welfare (DPW), led by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, for the Department of Justice to order its attached agency to cease the autopsies because it is not qualified to do so. 

Aguirre said the remains already examined by PAO may be re-exhumed to verify findings of the agency’s forensics laboratory.

PAO chief Persida Acosta has maintained there was a “pattern” related to Dengvaxia in the deaths of at least 5 children exhumed and examined at the agency's forensics laboratory. 

Sanofi Pasteur, meanwhile, has insisted on the efficacy of Dengvaxia, telling the House hearing on Monday that “the data remains quite clear that in absolute terms, dengue vaccination in the Philippines will provide a net reduction in dengue disease, including severe dengue, and thereby reduce the overall public health burden associated with this disease.”