MANILA — A shortlist of Asian experts, tasked to assess if the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine has health risks, is now with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III reported this during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, noting that there are four Asian experts on the list.
“Nai-report din po ni Sec. Duque na yung hihinging panel of experts na siyang mag-aaral doon sa epekto ng Dengvaxia ay naisumite na nila kay Presidente (Secretary Duque reported that the requested panel of experts who will study the effect of Dengvaxia have been submitted to the President),” Roque said in press briefing in Indang, Cavite.
Roque said although he did not have their names yet, the Asian experts are from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Duterte will pick only three out of the four experts on the shortlist.
“Pipili si Presidente ng tatlo sa apat so bahala po ang Presidente na mamili (The President will pick three out of the four so it is up to the President),” Roque said.
Roque, meanwhile, assured that government has allocated enough funds to pay for services of the three-man panel of experts. However, he did not give details on the duration of their work.
“Meron naman tayo sapat na budget para sila ay imbitahan dito sa Pilipinas at mag-aral doon sa kung anong dapat nilang pag-aralan para magkaroon sila ng conclusion sa epekto ng Dengvaxia (We have enough budget to invite them here in the Philippines to study and make conclusions on the effects of Dengvaxia),” he added.
Last May, Roque announced that Duterte wanted to seek advice from “disinterested parties” who have no links with the government and Dengvaxia supplier, French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, to settle the case once and for all.
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) expert panel tapped by the DOH each have their own conflicting findings on Dengvaxia.
Findings from PAO claimed that children who died and underwent forensic examination showed common signs believed to be attributed to Dengvaxia.
On the other hand, the PGH findings showed that only three out of 14 who were administered with Dengvaxia died but could directly be attributed to the vaccine.
“The problem of the President is although there is a finding of a PAO expert and there is the PGH panel of experts’ finding, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, he knows that expert witnesses can cancel out each others’ testimonies,” Roque said.
“In effect, he said that with conflicting testimonies from the experts from PAO and the PGH, he is constrained to seek further advice from disinterested parties and that’s why he requested that the panel of experts should be foreign, should have no links absolutely with the Philippine government,” he added.
In November 2017, Sanofi issued a global advisory warning of the risks of administering Dengvaxia to persons with no history of dengue.
This announcement led to a series of congressional investigations of the role of officials during the Aquino administration which began administering the vaccine to thousands of children in 2016. (PNA-northboundasia.com