MANILA - The head of the Public Attorney's Office denied Sunday that it caused a decline in immunization rates because of its controversial probe into the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.
PAO has filed dozens of complaints against officials of the previous administration for allegedly causing the deaths of several children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, which its maker admitted could trigger more severe symptoms in some cases.
Agency chief Persida Acosta caused "serious damage" with "baseless accusations" that led to a decline in vaccination rates, Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said.
Acosta, however, said vaccination rates were already going down before PAO started its Dengvaxia probe.
She also questioned whether the DOH actively promoted vaccination, saying she had been approached by people who wanted to get vaccinated.
"Sila ang may kasalanan n'yan," Acosta told DZMM Teleradyo.
(It's their fault.)
"Kaya po may lumalapit na rin sa atin na nagpapatulong dahil hindi nabakunahan ang kanilang mga anak. Eh yun nagkasakit ng measles," she added.
(There are people approaching us asking out help because their children were not vaccinated. And they fell ill with measles.)
The DOH said 90 percent of those infected in the measles outbreak in Metro Manila were unvaccinated, and that immunization coverage fell to only 40 percent last year.
PAO is not against the government's immunization drive, but opposes only Dengvaxia, said Acosta.
She also dismissed Senator Risa Hontiveros' call for her to resign amid the measles outbreak in several regions.
"Eh bakit s'ya ba ang boss ko?" said Acosta.
(Why? Is she my boss?)
The PAO chief said she will avoid talking with Duque, who is among those tagged in the complaints by her office.
"Bakit ako makikipag-usap nang bonggang bonga sa kanya? Eh di magagalit po sa akin ang mga biktima," Acosta said.
(Why will I talk to him? The victims will get angry at me.)
PAO has autopsied the bodies of 113 alleged Dengvaxia victims out of a total of 600 who were supposedly affected negatively by the vaccine, said Acosta.
The DOH and several health experts have said there is no established link between the alleged deaths and Dengvaxia, which the government removed from the immunization drive last year.