DOJ to consolidate PAO, experts' Dengvaxia findings – DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — It is up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consolidate the findings on the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia controversy, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday.

Some lawmakers during the hearing of the House Committees on Health and Good Government and Public Accountability on the dengue program expressed concern on reconciling the different results of separate investigations by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) and the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital's (UP-PGH) panel of experts.

PAO's findings state the deaths showed "strong links" to Dengvaxia, although it added the results are inconclusive. Meanwhile, the findings by the UP-PGH found no direct link between the deaths and the vaccine.

The UP-PGH's Dengue Investigative Task Force on January 2 reported three out of the 14 children died of what is called "dengue shock syndrome" after receiving the vaccine. Experts said two of the three deaths may be caused by vaccine failure.

Related: 2 deaths may be due to Dengvaxia failure – experts

Duque said PAO is doing the autopsies, while UP-PGH experts only analyzed and audited clinical charts and medical records of the 14 deaths.

He said the UP-PGH's findings will be submitted to the DOJ.

"I'd like to believe there should be commonalities of findings when they juxtapose the findings of PGH and PAO. We're hopeful there will be a lot of synergy and complementation of our findings," the Health Secretary said.

Duque also appealed to the public to not add to the misinformation surrounding Dengvaxia and other vaccination programs of the agency.

"The innocent vaccines of the DOH must not be tainted by this one single controversy," he said.

Related: Doctors says parents refusing vaccines due to Dengvaxia scare

A group of doctors on Saturday appealed to the PAO to stop performing autopsies on children who allegedly died after receiving the controversial vaccine. The group Doctors for Public Welfare, who counts former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral as member, said PAO should leave the determination of cause of death to "competent forensic pathologists."

PAO Forensic Director Erwin Erfe in January responded to criticism about their qualifications to conduct such autopsies. He said most autopsies in the Philippines are conducted by non-pathologists.

Erfe also clarified that while there were no pathologists on their team, they tapped pathologists at a training hospital to examine tissue samples from the bodies.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque refused to heed the call of the group of doctors.

"We're not telling anyone to stop what they are doing. We are just saying that we are flatly rejecting the call of the physicians to put an end to the exhumation because the position of the government is we're in search of the truth. We will resort to autopsy when it is needed," he said in a media briefing Monday.

Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre of the Department of Justice, which also oversees PAO, said he will not order to stop the PAO autopsies.

Duque met with Aguirre on Monday afternoon to discuss the findings.