MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Tuesday (December 19) ordered the Public Attorney’s Office(PAO) to extend free legal assistance to all possible victims of adverse complications from having been injected with the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
“The Public Attorney’s Office, through Chief Public Attorney Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, is hereby authorized and directed to extend free legal assistance in civil, criminal and administrative cases to all possible victims of Dengvaxia related injuries, illnesses and deaths,” stated the DOJ’s Department Order No. 792 released Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, PAO chief Acosta along with some members of the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) presented in a press conference the parents of 11-year-old Christine Mae De Guzman and 10-year-old Anjielica Pestilos, who both died of severe dengue after receiving Dengvaxia vaccine from the government.
Nelson De Guzman, Christine’s father, said his daughter died due to severe dengue in October 2016 even though she was given the Dengvaxia vaccine six months before.
“Ang sabi po nila, bago saksakan, pasalamat daw po sa gobyerno at may libreng vaccine po. Doon sa private daw po nasa P4,500 hanggang P5,000 [They told me before they vaccinated my daughter to thank the government for the free vaccine because in private clinics, the vaccine costs P4,500 to P5,000],” he said.
Christine’s death certificate indicated that the antecedent cause of her death was severe dengue.
PAO’s forensic expert Dr. Erwin Erpe said that the PAO’s forensic laboratory is already investigating the deaths of the two child victims.
Meanwhile, Acosta said PAO lawyers have already taken statements from families whose members have fallen ill or have died of dengue despite receiving the Dengvaxia vaccine.
ACOSTA ON CLAIMS OF ‘NO DEATHS’: LIES
She also assured that the government is ready to aid Dengvaxia victims.
“Handa po ang estado at gobyerno na kandiliin kayo sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong sa inyong legal, administratibo pati ring pagfa-file ng kasong criminal, kasong sibil o ano pang pangangailangan [The state and the government is ready to help you in filing administrative, criminal,civil cases or any other needs],” she said.
Acosta also slammed those who claimed that there were no Dengvaxia-related deaths and called them liars.
“Meron pong nagtutuwid at nagsasabing walang namatay. Sinungaling po sila. Patawarin sila ng langit. Marami pong namatay [Someone is correcting and saying that there were no deaths related to the vaccine. They are liars. Heaven forgive them. Many have died],” she said.
Meanwhile, VACC founding chairperson Dante Jimenez also insisted that the reported deaths were related to the anti-dengue vaccine as evidenced by the death certificate of Christine Mae De Guzman.
He then urged the Department of Health to acknowledge these cases.
“Hindi totoo ‘yung mga pinagsasabi ng mga Sanofi na wala raw namatay, even the DOH. Please DOH, wake up. Because marami pong mga lumalabas ngayon [What Sanofi and even DOH is saying that there were no deaths is not true. Please DOH, wake up because many are coming out now],” he said.
The DOH has suspended the anti-dengue vaccine program following the recent analysis of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur that the Dengvaxia vaccine may pose health risks for the so-called zero-negative persons, or those who never had dengue infections before receiving Dengvaxia.
The clinical review, Sanofi said in a November 27 advisory, showed that while Dengvaxia effectively prevents subsequent infections among previous dengue sufferers, it posed risk of “severe disease” [severe dengue strains] among the zero-negative class.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are currently investigating the previous administration’s alleged “hasty” P3.5 billion purchase of Dengvaxia vaccine.
Officials of Sanofi Pasteur had said there were no reported deaths that are related to the dengue vaccine.