Foreign pathologists to look into alleged Dengvaxia deaths – Malacañang

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) - President Rodrigo Duterte has given his go signal to tap foreign experts who can help verify findings that several children might have died because of the Dengvaxia vaccine, spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday.

"Nagsalita na po ang presidente na kung kinakailangan, kukuha tyao ng mga dayuhang clinical pathologist para pag-aralan kung itong mga kabataan na namamatay nga ay namatay dahil sa Dengvaxia vaccine," he said in a media briefing in Camarines Sur.

[Translation: The President already said we will tap foreign clinical pathologists, if necessary, to study if the children really died because of the Dengvaxia vaccine.]

He said this was among the president's directives during his meeting with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta, and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption Chair Dante Jimenez in Malacañang.

Roque said Duterte vowed to hold accountable officials responsible for the controversial vaccine, which sent many parents of Dengvaxia-immunized children into a panic. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said unnecessary hysteria over Dengvaxia is affecting other immunization programs.

Roque also said Duterte had directed all public hospitals to assist children who had been vaccinated, promising that the government would pay for all expenses.

"Dapat magbigay ng serbisyo doon sa mga kabataan na naturukan ng Dengvaxia. Sasagutin na ng gobyerno yung halaga ng paggamot doon sa mga naging biktima ng Dengvaxia," he said.

[Translation: We will assist the children vaccinated with Dengvaxia. The government will shoulder the medical cost.]

Sanofi has rejected the Department of Health's request to financially support hospitalized vaccinated children.

Over 837,000 children have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia through the government's nationwide immunization program.

Last December 1, the government halted the program after Sanofi's study showed those with no previous dengue infection and got vaccinated could contract "severe diseases."

PAO's findings state the deaths showed "strong links" to Dengvaxia, although it admitted the results are inconclusive. However, the expert panel of UP-PGH found no direct link between the deaths and Dengvaxia.

The UP-PGH's Dengue Investigative Task Force on January 2 reported that three of the 14 children died of what is called "dengue shock syndrome" after receiving the vaccine. Experts said two of the three deaths may be caused by vaccine failure.