Families claim their children died due to Dengvaxia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — Families of children who allegedly died after receiving Dengvaxia vaccine sought accountability on Tuesday.

The Public Attorney's Office said more families are willing to come forward to speak up on the ill effects of the vaccine.

"Meron pong nagtutuwid at nagsasabing walang namatay. Sinungaling po sila. Patawarin sila ng langit. Marami pong namatay," said PAO Chief Persida Acosta.

[Translation: Some are claiming there were no deaths related to Dengvaxia. They're lying. Many died.]

To prove their critics wrong, Acosta presented two families whose children allegedly died after receiving Dengvaxia.

First is the case of 10-year-old Christine Mae de Guzman of Mariveles, Bataan.

Her father, Nelson, recalled his daughter was immunized on April 6, 2016

"Ang sabi po nila bago saksakan, pasalamat daw po sa gobyerno at may libreng vaccine po. Kung sa private daw po nasa P4,500 hanggang P5,000," he said.

[Translation: Before she was immunized, I was told to thank the government for the free vaccine, because it would have cost us P4,500 to P5,000.]

But six months after, Nelson said his daughter complained of a headache.

"Pumasok po siya ng October 11 ng school po. Nung tanghali po dumaing po sya masakit ulo nya. Hindi na raw sya babalik sa school. After two weeks po sumakit na ang tiyan niya," he said.

[Translation: She went to school on October 11. Around lunch time, she said she has a headache, and she can't stay in school. After two weeks, her stomach started to hurt.]

Four days after, Christine Mae died. Her death certificate showed the cause of her death was "severe dengue."

The other child who died, 10-year-old Anjielica Pestilos, got vaccinated with Dengvaxia in September 13, 2017. 

"Noong October po ay nagkasakit na sya. Noong November ay na ospital na sya sa East Ave Medical Center. At December namatay na po," PAO Forensic Lab Chief Dr. Erwin Erfe said.

[Translation: She fell in in October. In November, she was brought to the East Avenue Medical Center. In December, she died.]

Anjielica's death certificate stated the cause was "systemic lupus" but Erfe said a review of the child's records showed otherwise.

"Nung nireview po namin ang record nito sa clinical abstract, mga litrato na kinuha meron hung manifestation ng severe hemorrhagic dengue," Erfe said.

[Translation: We reviewed her record, the photos showed manifestations of severe hemorrhagic dengue.]

He said both children had no previous exposure to dengue.

Dengvaxia was administered to over 800,000 Filipino students in a school-based government immunization program last April 2016.

Sanofi Pasteur later announced the vaccine had potential severe dengue risks among those who had not contracted the disease before. But the vaccine maker said there were no reported deaths caused by Dengvaxia.

The ensuing panic prompted the Health Department to suspend its program and the Senate to investigate the P3.5 billion spent on it.

The Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) wants the Justice Department to speed up the investigation on the vaccine mess as VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio claimed an insider tipped him documents related to the controversial vaccine were being shredded.

Acosta said they are planning to file criminal, civil, and administrative complaints against those behind the program. But she is holding off revealing the names to be charged just yet as they expect more families to come forward.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to release recommendations following the dengue vaccine controversy before the year ends, former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said Tuesday.