'Stop PAO autopsies on suspected Dengvaxia victims'

MANILA, Philippines – A group of doctors, including former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) from conducting autopsies on 14 children who supposedly died due to the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

In a statement Saturday, February 3, the group Doctors for Public Welfare said it makes "no sense for any more families to be subjected to the torture of having a loved one exhumed and cut up, only to find out that no useful information was derived from the cruel act."

"We urge the Department of Justice to order the PAO to stop performing autopsies on these children, and to leave the matter of determining the cause of death to competent forensic pathologists," the doctors said.

The group issued the statement after forensic pathologists from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) presented their diagnosis on these deaths on Friday, February 2. (READ: 3 out of 14 kids died of dengue after Dengvaxia shot – UP-PGH panel)

Doctors for Public Welfare said that PAO's forensic consultant Dr Erwin Erfe was "wrong in practically all of the 14" cases.

They said that Erfe "may at the very best have been correct in only 1 of 14 of the cases, or 7%; and wrong in 13 of 14 or 93%. In actuality, he is probably wrong in all, given that any actual causative relationship between the death of the 1 child to the vaccine is yet to be determined."

Citing the UP-PGH pathologists' findings, the group said, "None of the deaths of the 14 children autopsied were proven to be due to Dengvaxia. In fact, the deaths of 13 of them were totally unrelated to the vaccine."

"It now appears that only one case might be causally associated with the vaccine. That is the one with dengue and with antibodies to dengue," they continued. "However, it has yet to be determined if the vaccine had anything to do with the death." (READ: DOH considers UP-PGH findings as primary 'evidence' on Dengvaxia)

Meanwhile, in two of the children who were examined, the group said: "It was noted that vaccine failure may have been the cause. This means that no antibodies were produced, and so they could not have suffered from an antibody enhanced reaction. This can happen when the vaccine is not stored properly, and so loses its potency. It's (as) though the children were never vaccinated."

Due to this, the group concluded the two children "most likely died of dengue, not due to the vaccine."

However, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said in Friday's press briefing with the UP-PGH panel that the tissue samples of the said 3 cases still need to be studied further.

Cabral and other doctors expressed dismay over the "unsubstantiated" claims on the Dengvaxia vaccine and how it has "discouraged" parents from availing of other government immunization programs for their children. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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