ALBAY, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon on Saturday, February 10, gave some advice to Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta in handling the Dengvaxia controversy: “Don’t be too noisy.”
Gordon made the statement in an interview with reporters in Guinobatan town, where he led Mayon relief operations as Philippine Red Cross chairman, along with Chris Steines, International Federation Red Cross head of country office.
Asked about the PAO investigation into the Dengvaxia-related deaths, the senator said: “Acosta knows what she is doing. [There are] many aggrieved people because of the Dengvaxia case coming out into open. She’s doing well but don’t be too noisy.”
Gordon chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee probing the government’s mass dengue immunization program, which was started in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and continued under the Duterte administration.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other local medical experts have called for a more sober discussion on the Dengvaxia controversy, citing the “hysteria” created by non-experts who spread fear among the public, especially on the use of vaccines, in general. (READ: No need to panic over Dengvaxia-linked deaths – Duque, UP-PGH experts)
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito had earlier blamed the PAO under Acosta for the “hysteria” over Dengvaxia, which had caused some parents to reject the administration of proven vaccines for measles, polio, and diphtheria to their children.
The University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) panel tasked by the health department to investigate the deaths found that 3 of the 14 deaths being linked to Dengvaxia have causal relation, meaning they died of dengue despite being vaccinated. Two of the 3 deaths may have been due to vaccine failure, while most of the deaths were caused by other illnesses.
The UP-PGH findings, which are still subject to further validation, are in contrast to the alarming pronouncements of the PAO, which saw a bleeding pattern in the autopsies it conducted on the 14 children.(READ: Expert warns vs wild claims linked to Dengvaxia)
PAO has refused to cooperate with the Department of Health, so far.
The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to summon Acosta and forensic laboratory Director Erwin Erfe after repeatedly skipping hearings on the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine thrice.
Gordon reiterated on Saturday his earlier statement that Aquino and former health secretary Janette Garin may face charges of homicide resulting from reckless imprudence over the immunization program.
Graft and plunder complaints had been filed against Aquino and his former officials, as well as executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, before the Office of the Ombudsman over the vaccination program.
A complaint filed by former lawmaker Augusto Syjuco Jr accused Aquino and officials involved in the program of “mass murder, and other related and resultant crimes through reckless imprudence, and negligence, and plunder and graft and corruption."
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and its witness filed another complaint against Aquino and his former officials on February 2, this time before the Commission on Elections. They accused them of violating the Election Code for using public funds to campaign for the Liberal Party in 2016, through the mass immunization program.
The complaints were filed after Sanofi Pasteur announced that the vaccine may lead to severe dengue cases among vaccinees without prior dengue infection. – Rappler.com