Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday it was the Public Attorney’s Office and not him who contributed to the loss of public trust in vaccines.
This was after Iloilo Representative Janette Garin blamed Duque for the public’s doubt about getting vaccines, affecting the country’s COVID-19 immunization program.
Duque answered Garin’s allegations and said the lawmaker might be barking at the wrong tree.
“I do not understand where she is coming from! She might be referring, for the large part, to PAO’s (Public Attorney’s Office) endless assailing and filing of multiple cases regarding the then Dengvaxia program implementation,” Duque said in a text message to GMA News Online.
He emphasized that Dengvaxia vaccine implementation was decided during Garin’s term as DOH chief. He only suspended it “after Sanofi’s belated disclosure of a serious adverse effects in children who had no history of previous infection at the time they were immunized.”
Garin, a former health chief, said that Duque had not corrected the false impression that the Dengvaxia vaccine could be fatal, especially to children.
The controversial Dengvaxia was first given to children in the Philippines during Garin’s term as a DOH secretary. She said it was safe, and many countries worldwide are still using it.
Duque says PAO contributed to loss of public trust in vaccines
“By having conflicting statements, Duque has been a big contributor to our decline in vaccine confidence,” she said.
“Duque makes it appear that Dengvaxia was for politics rather than health equity. He played to the gallery and pretended that Dengvaxia was for politics and not for public health,” she added.
Garin said that if the DOH would act on the COVID-19 vaccine the same way they did with Dengvaxia, Filipinos would not benefit from its protection and cure.
In November 2017, the government halted the school-based dengue vaccination program after Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, advised against giving the vaccine to individuals who had not acquired dengue as it could cause severe side effects in the long run.
Due to the Dengvaxia controversy, the public’s vaccine confidence dropped from 92% to 33%.
The measles outbreak in 2018 and the polio outbreak in 2019 in the Philippines were blamed on the Dengvaxia because parents were afraid to have their children immunized.