Acosta: 'Unfair' to blame PAO for rise in measles cases

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Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta said it was not their fault people are hesitant about getting vaccinated. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 6) — The chief of the Public Attorney's Office denies that she had anything to do with the spike in measles cases in the country. 

Speaking to reporters, Persida Acosta said, "Ideally, 1 year old to 1 year and 3 months, babakunahan ng measles vaccine. One year pa lang halos kami nag-iimbestiga at nakapagfile ng mga cases, e bakit kami ang sisisihin dyan sa measles outbreak?" she said. 

[Translation: Ideally, a child who is a year old to 1-year-and-3-months-old should get the measles vaccine. We have only been investigating for only a year and have filed cases, why are we being blamed for the measles outbreak?] 

Acosta, who was embroiled in controversy after claiming that the Dengvaxia vaccine in 2014 killed multiple children, said there should have been a bigger effort to have children vaccinated against measles.

"Kaya kung may nagkakameasles, dapat nabakunahan yan nung 2015, 2016, 2017. Bakit hindi ikinampanya noon ng mabuting-mabuti at nagbahay-bahay?" Acosta added. 

 

[Translation: If there is anyone getting measles, they should have been vaccinated in 2015, 2016, 2017. Why wasn't there better campaigning for it and why didnt' they go house-to-house?] 

The DOH declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila and Central Luzon on Wednesday, with at least 1,500 suspected cases reported in the country as of January 26, according to the Department of Health. Of these cases, 25 deaths have been confirmed. 

Cities with the most number of cases include Manila, Caloocan, Marikina, Pasig, Navotas, Parañaque, Taguig, Pasay and Malabon.

Dr. Ruby Constantino, DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Director said they were not able to include all children in their immunization coverage program since some parents' are apprehensive of its adverse effects, similar to the controversial dengue immunization program in 2014.

She told CNN Philippines' New Day Monday, "The major reason, wherein we have a big drop from 70% in 2017, we had only 39% (coverage) in 2018, of course because of the Dengvaxia scare."

Acosta said it was "unfair" to be blamed for the outbreak.

 

"Sana po si Secretary Duque, bago po siya mansisi ng iba, tignan muna niya ang pagkukulang sa kanilang kampanya sa mga subok na bakuna," she said. 

[Translation: I hope Secretary Duque, before he blames anyone, looks at the lack of their campaign against trusted vaccines.]

Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo came to the PAO chief's defense saying she was doing her job as a lawyer.

"The PAO chief as a lawyer is defending or pursuing the theory that favors the clients. In other words, she's pursuing an advocacy, an impassioned one, so I cannot blame her for that," he said Thursday.

Vice President Leni Robredo also aired her take on the matter, saying it was politics that dissuaded the country from preventing the outbreak.  

"Sana iyong ganito kahalagang mga concerns, hindi dapat napupulitika, kasi kapag pinasukan ng pulitika, iyong tao naman karamihan, ang pinapaniwalaan iyong napapanood o naririnig. Kapag mayroong mga irresponsible na tao na binabahiran ng pagduda iyong effectivity ng isang bagay na matagal nang na-test, parang unfair ito sa ordinaryong pamilyang Pilipino," Robredo said.  

[Translation: Regarding concerns such as these, they shouldn't be politicized, because once you inject politics, many people will believe what they see and hear. If there is an irresponsible person who would sow doubt into the effectivity of something that was already tested, it is unfair to the ordinary Filipino.]  

Asked if Acosta should be blamed for the spike in measles cases, Robredo said it is no use to point fingers as to who is to blame for the outbreak. 

"Iyong para sa akin, hintuin iyong finger-pointing, pero mag-move forward at maghanap ng solusyon. Maraming mga tao iyong naging cause nito," she said.  

[Translation: For me, let's cease the finger-pointing, but let's move forward and look for a solution. Many people caused this.]

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara said he has directed Dengvaxia investigating panels to resolve the cases linked to the vaccine by February. He also defended Acosta from the public backlash following the measles outbreak.

"PAO chief Acosta is just doing her job and certainly does not intend to scare the public about the possible negative effects of vaccination in general," he said.

He assured that the government will launch an information campaign on vaccination to prevent common illnesses.

Acosta appealed to parents to get their children vaccinated. 

 

"Kung subok po ang bakuna...e magpabakuna po tayo. Huwag po natin pansinin yung mga paninisi na di umano dahil sa Dengvaxia... Isipin po natin ang kapakanan ng ating mga anak," she said. 

[Translation: If the vaccine is trusted...get vaccinated. Do not mind talk that it is allegedly because of Dengvaxia... Let us think of the welfare of our children.] 

TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy