Palace rejects call to stop Dengvaxia autopsies


MANILA — Malacañang on Monday said it has rejected the call of health experts asking the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to stop performing autopsies on children who allegedly died after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia.

“We’re flatly rejecting the call of the physicians to put an end to the exhumation because the position of the government is we’re in search of the truth, we will resort to autopsy when it’s needed,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III have both rejected the request to stop performing autopsies.

He explained that performing autopsies will proceed because the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) findings stated that autopsies will have to be conducted on the three of the 14 children that had developed dengue shock syndrome after vaccination.

“We will proceed with the autopsies because the UP-PGH study itself said that autopsy may have to be conducted on the three, except that ang sabi ng UP-PGH, kailangan talaga i-autopsy within 24 hours matapos mamatay ang isang suspected case dahil ng Dengvaxia so ‘wag patatagalin (We will proceed with the autopsies because the UP-PGH study itself said that autopsy may have to be conducted on the three, except that UP-PGH said that autopsy should be conducted within 24 hours after the death of a suspected Dengvaxia case so let’s not take any longer to do this),” Roque added.

Roque stressed that the autopsy must be done by a government physician affiliated either with a public hospital or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

He pointed out that the government does not bar results from other sources but noted that courts very seldom rely on findings not made by government medico legal officers.

‘Dream on, Sanofi’

Roque, meanwhile, said that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur is not yet off the hook from facing charges despite the UP-PGH findings that show that there is no evidence directly linking the vaccine to the deaths of the nine of 14 children.

“Hindi pa tapos ang usapin. May VACC complaint na election offense ang ginawa nila, merong reklamo na hindi sila nag-disclose fully kung ano yung side-effect ng bakuna so hindi ibig sabihin na ang finding ng UP-PGH na nagsasabi na siyam walang kinalaman sa Dengvaxia, wala na silang pananagutan (The talk is not yet over. There’s a VACC [Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption] complaint that what they did is an election offense, there’s another complaint stating that they did not fully disclose the side-effects of the vaccine so it does not mean that because the UP-PGH findings show that nine have nothing to do with Dengvaxia, they have no liability),” Roque said.

“Marami pang posibleng pananagutan pag napatunayan na alam nila ang side-effect na di nila dinisclose (There are a lot of possible liabilities if proven that they knew the side-effect of the vaccine but failed to disclose it). They must be dreaming if they think they’re off the hook,” he added.

He reminded Sanofi that investigation is ongoing and it is too early to make any conclusions.

“Wala pang final finding ang NBI, antayin natin ‘yan, (The NBI has not released its final findings, let’s wait for them) no one is responsible and yet no one is off the hook at this stage. Dream on, Sanofi,” Roque said.

Sanofi earlier declined the demand of the government to fully refund the PHP3 billion spent on Dengvaxia, noting that agreeing to refund the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case.

The pharmaceutical giant said that when it initially agreed to reimburse the unused doses of Dengvaxia, it was done in continued commitment to cooperate with the Department of Health and not due to any safety or quality concerns.