PAO presents findings on Dengvaxia victims

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — After skipping the first five hearings, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) testified in the Senate hearing on the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine for the first time on Wednesday, and they revealed their findings on the victims.

PAO officials presented their findings before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, showing a link between the death of 22 children they autopsied and the dengue vaccine.

They added their forensics findings also showed the children suffered from massive brain hemorrhage, as well as enlargement of organs.

PAO said 40 more cases have been referred to them, and would likely be subjected to an autopsy as well.

Officials from the Health department, however, insisted that the PAO’s findings are inconclusive and are merely fueling public hysteria among the parents.

After much prodding from the Senate, PAO officials eventually agreed to work with Health officials on a more thorough study and to collate all the findings.

“Alang-alang sa ating mga magulang, sa mga anak, we have to be in this together kasi...later on we will file a case in the international court, probably sa Sanofi, dapat magkakasama tayo. Hindi pwedeng hiwalay, doon pa lang mahihirapan tayo manalo,” Senator JV Ejercito said.

[Translation: For the sake of the parents and the children, we have to be in this together because later on, we will file a case in the international court, probably against Sanofi, so we should be united. It will be hard for us to win if we’re not together in this.]

The University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) panel of experts has also investigated the death of 14 dengue patients vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

Their findings showed no direct link between the deaths and the vaccine.

The UP-PGH's Dengue Investigative Task Force on January 2 reported three out of the 14 children died of what is called "dengue shock syndrome" after receiving the vaccine. Experts said two of the three deaths may be caused by vaccine failure.

Health Secretary Enrique Duque III earlier said the UP-PGH's findings will be submitted to the Department of Justice, the department that oversees the PAO.

Pending the result of the parallel investigations, pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has rejected twice the Health Department's request to refund the Philippines of used Dengvaxia vaccine worth P1.8 billion, along with an indemnification fund for the vaccinated children.

Gordon: Government to blame

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon, meanwhile, continued to blame the government for its lack of transparency on the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine.

He maintained the Health Department should be held accountable for the dengue vaccine mess.

“The government is liable here. Kayo nagtulak eh. Every scientist that I have talked to here, you did not have to put it on mass immunization. You did not tell the patient, the parents, na itong maaaring mangyari. You are liable. We are liable. The taxpayer has become liable,” Gordon said.

The committee has yet to come up with a preliminary report, which Gordon said will be released by the end of the month.

In December 2017, the government halted its nationwide dengue vaccination program that began in 2016, after 837,000 children were immunized. Sanofi's earlier study showed those with no previous dengue infection and got vaccinated could contract "severe diseases."