OVER 800,000 children who have been inoculated with Dengvaxia vaccine are at risk, following the findings of a “strong” pattern in the deaths of four children with dengue symptoms, the Public Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
At a radio interview over dzMM, forensic expert Dr. Erwin Erfe said the autopsy of four children who died within six months after receiving the dengue vaccine showed a pattern of internal bleeding, enlarged organs, such as the brain, lungs, spleen, kidneys and heart, and petechial rashes.
“Almost everyday, we receive requests to examine those children who got the Dengvaxia vaccine,” he said.
Just yesterday, PAO examined the body of the fifth child “whose remains still lie in state,” he added.
“If I see a pattern [here], more than 800,000 children [with Dengvaxia vaccine] are at risk. Unfortunately, there was a pattern in the deaths of the four children [we have examined],” he said.
“When we opened the head of those children, we observed severe bleeding, enlarged [internal] organs and many petechial rashes inside the chest. I pray that this [fifth body] would not manifest a pattern,” he added.
He cited a “rapid downfall” or death of children six months after receiving the vaccine, saying “there was even one victim who manifested severe fever and died less than 24 hours.”
“The force of the disease was just that fast,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to answer the petition filed by the Gabriela party-list and 70 mothers and children seeking to compel certain government officials to provide free medical services and treatment to children injected with the untested controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine.
In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te stressed the Court en banc gave respondents Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Interior and Local Government Acting Secretary Catalino Cuy, and Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones 10 days to comment on the petition.
Other respondents included in the list are DoH-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control program director Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, and Food and Drug Administrative director general Nela Charade Puno.
In a Nov. 29, 2017 public disclosure in Paris, the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, Dengvaxia manufacturer, disclosed Dengvaxia should not be recommended to individuals who had not been previously infected by dengue virus.
In the 2015 to 2016 school year, the Department of Health under then secretary Janette Garin procured the Dengvaxia vaccines for P3.5 billion for its school-based immunization program covering 830,000 pupils aged nine and older enrolled in grade four.
The vaccine was administered in three six-month interval doses.
“The Department of Health and Sanofi said children with dengue vaccine will not have severe diseases for three years. [But] this is a new pattern of sickness and death [in just six months],” Erfe said.
Kin of other 200 children who got the vaccine sought PAO’s help, he said, adding “21 of them, including a 15-year-old pregnant girl, manifested rashes and [high] fever, and were immediately sent to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center [for observation and treatment],” he added.
Dengvaxia is a live attenuated yellow fever virus combined with other four antigens from the dengue virus that could weaken the dengue virus afflicting a person with a previous history of dengue, he said.
“The vaccine should only be given to a person with strong immune system so that the body could respond well to it. A medical history of the child must be looked into before vaccination is done,” he said.
But he said the health department’s immunization program failed to do so.
At the end of the radio interview, Erfe said “I pray that this [pattern] will not go through and through. Unfortunately, we see a strong pattern.”
PAO is flooded with phone calls and people seeking its forensic expertise, he said.
Chief Persida Acosta vowed to extend legal assistance to the victims.
In their petition, Gabriela, the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia along with 70 mothers and their children administered with the vaccine, were demanding the government provide free services including, but not limited to, medical checkups, consultations, medical treatment and blood tests to those vaccinated.
According to them, these free medical services should be continued until it would have been determined and declared by competent medical and/or scientific experts that the threats brought by the Dengvaxia vaccine have been minimized or eliminated.
The petitioners also asked the high court to direct the DoF, DepEd and DILG to create a registry of children who were administered with the vaccine to facilitate the delivery of free healthcare services.
The petitioners explained the Dengvaxia issue is “of transcendental importance” and that the SC must compel key government agencies to provide free medical services and treatment for those who might suffer from severe dengue or any of the determined side effects of the anti-dengue vaccine.
“The horrors and risks being posed right now by the vaccine, which has been haphazardly administered to around 800,000 children, should be enough for the justices to act with urgency on our petition,” the petitioners said.
Aside from these, the petitioners are asking the Court to compel the respondents to publicly disseminate on a regular basis the report of the task force created and designated to monitor and review the school-based immunization program involving Dengvaxia and submit the same to the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on Health for monitoring.
They argued that the government agencies should monitor children in all villages and regions who were injected with the vaccine.