No direct link between deaths, Dengvaxia — DOH chief Duque, other experts

MANILA – There’s no direct link yet between the anti-dengue vaccine and the death of the 39 individuals who were earlier given Dengvaxia, health officials and medical doctors said at the hearing of the House committees on good government and health.

On questioning by Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the death of the 39 individuals cannot be directly concluded as having been caused by the vaccine.

Quezon City Rep. Bolet Banal and Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin also sought to clarify with dengue experts if the vaccine – categorically and in fact – was the direct cause of death for the 39 children, as of the latest count.

The answer, according to the resource speakers, was inconclusive. The UP-PGH Dengue Investigative Task Force reiterated that the collective findings of PAO and the UP-PGH team were not sufficient proof to say that the deaths were caused by the children having been injected by the vaccine.

Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte asked task force head Dr. Juliet Sio-Aguilar whether the cause of the death of the children was directly related to the vaccine.

“Paano natin masasabi na may direct causal relationship ang mga bagay-bagay?” Belmonte said.

“If you look at World Health Organization, causality only means association, it may not be the cause and effect,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar also said that the symptoms seen in a dengue victim may also be present in other diseases.

“Bleeding is the end point, if you analyze the case, you have to look at totality, pero hindi naman lahat ng bleeding ay dahil sa dengue syndrome. . .pwedeng sepsis, or leukemia. . . “ she said.

The House of Representatives continued its probe into the Dengvaxia controversy on Monday, February 26, at the Belmonte Session Hall.

The hearing was attended to by the joint committees on health and good government and public accoutanbility. Resource speakers present in the hearing included former President Benigno Aquino III, who provided an opening statement requesting to redirect the probe’s attention to the larger issue at hand, instead of allegedly “politicising” the issue that has caused anxiety to families with children, who were administered with the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Calling out the more vocal public officials involved in the Dengvaxia probe, he said, “Sa pagpapaduda, tinutupad ba ninyo ang promotion of public welfare?”

“Humaharap po ako sa Kongreso ngayon dahil tingin ko, obligasyon kong dalhin ang usapan sa tamang antas, at ilayo ito sa haka-haka at padudang nagdudulot ng pinsala sa kapakanan ng aking mga Boss, ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Aquino added.

Joining him was former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who was later interpellated on the source of the supposed surplus allocated to the program, and former Health Secretary Janette Garin, who presented the circumstances that led to the department’s decision to hold mass immunization programs to three hyperendemic regions of the country—NCR, Region III, and Region IV-A.

Duque said that the rift between PAO and the medical sector is causing complications dangerous to the public.

Aguilar lamented this dangerous collateral damage to the department’s other public health programs.

“People are refusing even simple procedures such as deworming, which are very different from vaccinations.”

Bordado also raised this point, citing the dangers of outbreaks in the country, including the measles outbreak already happening in the south.

The twenty interpellators are expected to end the session with hopes of finally closing the issue and coming to a decision that involves unifying all bodies capable of deeply investigating the matter.

“We are all fighting for the same cause,” said Sec. Duque. “We have to join forces, so that we’ll get to the truth of the matter.”

Sec. Garin also called for the probe committee and the public in general to listen to the DOH.

“The investigation must continue, and those who should be held accountable must be held accountable, but DOH should be on top of the situation. Sila po ang dapat pakinggan ng taumbayan. Sila po ang eksperto. Sila po ang boses na dapat pakinggan.”