PAO chief insists death of 60 kids linked to Dengvaxia

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Wednesday maintained that the death of at least 60 schoolchildren have links to the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

PAO chief Persida Rueda Acosta said the 60 bodies examined by the PAO forensics team were found to have suffered from internal organ bleeding, edema and hemorrhages.

Acosta said in 2016, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine manufacturer, admitted the occurrence of such side effects in those inoculated with Dengvaxia.

“The 60 Dengvaxia casualties we have examined had these adverse effects attributed to the vaccine – internal organ bleeding, edema and hemorrhages,” Acosta told reporters.

“Dengvaxia has side effects as admitted by Sanofi in December 2016 before the vaccine was bought – allergic anaphylactic reaction, viscerotropism, neurotropism and/ or severe dengue,” she added.

Acosta reacted to the claim of former President Benigno Aquino III and former Health Secretary Janette Garin that the deaths could not be attributed to the vaccine because the causal link had not been scientifically established.

Aquino and Garin are facing a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the illegal disbursement of P3.5-billion to purchase the vaccine as well as for its ill-effects to children.

Read: Aquino at DOJ to answer raps over Dengvaxia

The two former officials, after submitting their counteraffidavits to the DOJ argued that the ongoing exhumation and autopsy of the bodies of schoolchildren inoculated with Dengvaxia were not the proper way to determine the causal link since the World Health Organization (WHO) had set blood sampling and examination as the proper method.

But Acosta, who filed separate criminal complaints against Garin and other officials before the DOJ for parents of reported victims, pointed out that such method prescribed by the WHO was not applicable to the first 57 cases that the PAO had documented.

“Those 57 were already embalmed and could no longer be subjected to blood sampling as the cadavers were already contaminated with substances apart from formalin,” she explained.

This was why she said the PAO decided to tap a forensics team consisting of clinical experts, medico-legal doctors and two senior pathologists and doctors from University of East Ramon Magsaysay Hospital and Ospital ng Maynila to conduct the autopsy.

Acosta also rebutted the point of Aquino and Garin that the actions taken by the Duterte administration, including the supposed publicity by her office on victims of the vaccine, had only created unnecessary hysteria and panic that actually only destroyed the trust of the public on the DOH and its vaccination programs.

“Panic and hysteria are expected because most of the victims are poor and have no money for hospitalization. It is natural to cry when your child gets sick after getting vaccine or dies later on,” she added.

She also denied Aquino and Garin’s allegation that she was using the issue “to generate recall for the midterm election next year.“

“I am not a politician but only a public servant since 1988 to present,” she said. “I have not joined in any election in the past and I have no plan to run in the 2019 elections.” /atm

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