MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to form his own panel that would investigate whether Dengvaxia indeed posed risks on those injected with the anti-dengue vaccine.
Duterte will create a three-member panel composed of Southeast Asian experts, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, as the teams sanctioned by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the Department of Health (DOH) to investigate the matter had conflicting conclusions.
PAO investigators had said they saw a “pattern” that led to the deaths of several vaccine recipients. The DOH-sanctioned team from the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital (UP PGH), on the other hand, said that while 3 of the 14 deceased children they studied died because of dengue despite receiving the vaccine, there was no evidence yet that could directly link their deaths to Dengvaxia.
“He (Duterte) said with the conflicting testimonies from PAO and PGH, he is constrained to seek further advice from disinterested parties, that’s why he requested that the panel of experts be foreign, have no links with the Philippine government... and Sanofi [Pasteur],” Roque said in a Palace press briefing, referring to the French drug firm that created the vaccine.
French drug maker Sanofi Pasteur had said in November that Dengvaxia may cause severe dengue symptoms if administered on those who have not contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
Some 830,000 schoolchildren were vaccinated under the nationwide vaccination program initiated during the Aquino administration.
Government has since suspended the program, but several parents claimed that their children died due to complications from the vaccine. These claims, however, have yet to be proven.
Former President Benigno Aquino III and several of his former cabinet members are facing charges for the vaccination program. The former official has defended his administration's decision to implement the program, saying it was meant "to protect the people."