Autopsy on victims to unmask people behind Dengvaxia mess: PAO

MANILA — Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta on Monday said they are waiting for the autopsy results on the bodies of the victims who died after they were given shots of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

Acosta said these results are essential to determine the officials who must be held liable for the controversial PHP3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the Department of Health (DOH).

So far, among the more than a hundred requests, Acosta said the PAO forensics team has autopsied seven children who have died after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

“We are waiting the final report of our forensic team and also out pathologist,” she said during the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel.

Hindi tayo nagmamadali kasi magru-rule out po tayo ng kung sino lang po talaga ang dapat kasuhan. We will not use shotgun method na lahat, hindi po, yun lang talagang may kagagawan dito na dapat managot (We are not in a hurry. We will rule who are the people who will face charges. Those officials will face sanctions.) ,” she explained.

In the meantime, Acosta would not yet reveal whom her office intends to sue regarding the Dengvaxia issue.

Sa mga kakasuhan ayoko munang mag-announce pero alam ng taong bayan kung sino dapat kasuhan dito sa pagkamatay ng mga bata, (I don’t want to announce who will get sued but the public knows who they are),” she said.

Acosta explained the PAO is focused on the civil, criminal, and administrative aspects of the case, while, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which is also conducting its own probe will be handling on should be held liable for graft and plunder.

Acosta said her office requested last Friday from the DOH a master list of the over 800,000 children who got inoculated with the vaccine.

She added she will also ask copies of the master list from the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Pag ho hindi nag-produce (ng master list), may obstruction of justice (They could be charged with obstruction of justice if they fail to produce the master list),” she warned.

She cited that under the Anti-Red Tape Law the masterlist should be released within 10 days from the day it was requested.

She also urged local health officials and workers not to contribute to the cover-up of the real cause of deaths of children who received the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

“Yung mga midwives, health workers, mga doktor, mga clinician, hindi po namin kayo idedemanda sapagkat kayo lang ay na-misled (To the midwives, health workers, doctors, clinicians, we will not sue you because you were only misled),”she assured.

Yung mga natatakot na maglagay ng tamang antecedent and underlying cause, wag na kayong matakot. (Those who fear saying the right antecedent cause and underlying cause of deaths, do not fear),” she added.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Department Order (DO) No. 792 ordering PAO to “extend free legal assistance in civil, criminal, and administrative cases to all possible victims of Dengvaxia related injuries, illness and deaths.”

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) called the immunization program “worse than any heinous crime,” and urged the DOH to set up help desks to receive complaints from concerned parents and also vowed to help them seek compensation for the families whose children may have received potentially risky anti-dengue shots.

The VACC is also pushing for the conduct of investigation in order to hold those responsible for the mass vaccination.

The DOH said around 10 percent of the over 700,000 school children who received the shots at risk to a “severe” case of the disease, prompting DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III to order the suspension of the dengue vaccination program pending recommendation on further action from experts from the WHO.

Pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur recently issued an advisory to the public that its product Dengvaxia is effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization but creates a risk of a “severe” case of dengue for people who have not yet had dengue.