Palace: Duterte not politicizing Dengvaxia mess

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2018 02:18 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2018 08:08 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Monday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte has politicized the controversy over dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, after former president Benigno Aquino III in a Senate inquiry criticized a self-proclaimed government forensics expert who has allegedly been making unqualified assessments on the matter.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque noted that Duterte previously empathized with Aquino administration officials over their decision to push through with the purchase and administration of the vaccine.

“If it is [being politicized], it is not certainly because of the President. The President has taken a very calm, very rational approach to this. He has made a declaration that he understands why the previous administration decided to use Dengvaxia,” Roque said in a news conference in Malacañang.

Roque, however, said Duterte still wants government investigators to get to the bottom of the issue, including determining why there was supposed haste in the purchase of the vaccine from French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi.

“His continuing instruction is for the investigation, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to continue and to conclude it so we will find out if people should be criminally liable,” Roque said.

Aquino on Monday criticized a forensics expert who who slammed his administration's vaccination program despite allegedly having a certification similar to those from Recto, a street infamous for the sale of fake documents.

He also slammed how certain government officials and politicians have “politicized” the matter.

The Public Attorney's Office had claimed that its forensics experts have found a pattern in the death of at least 18 children who received the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia under the Aquino administration.

Aquino's spokesperson Abigail Valte recently wrote an article saying that Dr. Erwin Erfe, who led PAO's examination, received forensic training from a "certification mill."

Procured in 2016, Dengvaxia was administered to about 837,000 people under a national immunization program, mostly public school students in areas where dengue was reportedly prevalent.

The DOH last year halted its dengue vaccination program after Sanofi's admission that Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease before.