MANILA - Sen. Bam Aquino IV on Friday said his cousin, former President Benigno Aquino III, was responsible for the use of controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in the now halted nationwide immunization program but added that the issue was 'politicized.'
"Yes, he is responsible for Dengvaxia because he made a decision to bring it in. Now, whether Dengvaxia did lead to those deaths or not is really the question na palagay ko napulitika na talaga," he said on ANC's Headstart.
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren were vaccinated with Dengvaxia during the Aquino administration.
But French drug maker Sanofi disclosed in 2017 that the vaccine could cause more severe symptoms for those who have not had dengue. This prompted the government to halt the dengue immunization drive.
The Food and Drug Administration has also permanently revoked the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia due to Sanofi's persistent failure to submit post-approval commitment documents.
President Aquino and several of his Cabinet secretaries were charged last year with plunder, malversation and graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for their involvement in the Dengvaxia program.
The House health committee earlier this month also recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the officials.
The Public Attorney's Office had filed several complaints on alleged deaths due to Dengvaxia.
PAO Chief Persida Acosta, however, has come under fire for allegedly fueling anti-vaccination hysteria, which led to immunization coverage falling to only 40 percent last year.
"She contributed to it (Dengvaxia scare)," the senator said.
"The DOH (Department of Health) and a lot of the professors and doctors who have come out have said that's not proven. Hindi mo masasabing Gospel truth 'yan," he said.
The DOH and several health experts have repeatedly insisted that there is no established link between Dengvaxia and dengue deaths allegedly due to the vaccine.
The senator, who is running as a reelectionist in the midterm poll, urged a stop in the "blame game" that has contributed to the decrease in the immunization rate of the health department.
He said over a hundred children have died from measles, a vaccine-preventable disease.
"Set politics aside and focus on the children. May mga batang namamatay from a disease na may vaccine. How crazy is that?" he said.