MANILA - (UPDATED) Malacañang on Monday rejected calls that government stop conducting autopsies on a number of children who died after being vaccinated with Dengvaxia.
A group that includes former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and vaccine expert Lulu Bravo earlier said the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) should stop performing autopsies on affected children as these make “no sense” and were only subjecting the families to torture.
The group added that PAO should just leave the matter of determining the cause of death of the children to forensic experts.
PAO chief Persida Acosta has already rejected the call, a position backed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
“We are flatly rejecting the call to stop autopsies. We will perform autopsies as they are required, because we need to find the truth,” Roque said in a news conference.
Roque added that Sanofi must be “dreaming if they think they are off the hook” after a panel composed of experts from the Philippine General Hospital said only 3 out of 14 deaths of children vaccinated with Dengvaxia were due to dengue.
The panel said two of these three deaths can possibly be attributed to vaccine failure, but added that additional tests still need to be done.
The government spent P3.5 billion to purchase Dengvaxia for one million public school children in regions reported to have the highest incidence of dengue in 2015.
The vaccine was given to about 830,000 children in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas.
The DOH suspended the vaccination program last year after its manufacturer, France's Sanofi Pasteur, admitted that Dengvaxia might cause more severe symptoms on those who have not contracted dengue.
Sanofi Pasteur has returned about P1.6 billion to the government, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines would take legal action against the French drug-maker if it refuses to fully refund the P3.5 billion.
The French drug maker, however, has refused to give a refund for the used vaccines.