Clinical pathologist needed in autopsy on Dengvaxia victims: Aguirre

MANILA -- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said a clinical pathologist was needed for the autopsies conducted by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) on children whose deaths were being linked to Dengvaxia, the world's first-ever dengue vaccine which was found to cause health risk to individuals with no prior dengue infection.

Aguirre said a clinical pathologist was important to determine the cause of death in the autopsies being conducted by PAO forensic team led by Dr. Erwin Erfe.

Yan ang question (That's my question to) ko kay Dr. Francisco Duque (DOH Secretary). Is it possible that all these bodies will be re-exhumed in order that tissues or internal organs will be re-examined? Sabi niya sa akin, walang prohibition doon (He told me that there is no prohibition there). Kahit nagkaroon ng opinion or nagkaroon ng clinical abstract exam ni Dr. Erfe, pwedeng irere-examine ulit ng isangclinical pathologist which we could consider really an expert on this matter. Kasi medyo mahirap talaga (Despite an earlier clinical abstract exam made by Dr. Erfe, it could be re-examined by clinical pathologist. It's very hard to determine), Aguirre told reporters.

However, the Justice Secretary stressed that the expert should come from abroad with an impressive qualification.

It will not be a Filipino. It will come from abroad who can establish definitely the linkage between the Dengvaxia and the death or injuries suffered by the students, he explained.

Aguirre said he was set to discuss the matter with President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting in Malacanang on Thursday afternoon.

I am going to emphasize that we need a clinical pathologist or an expert on the matter. Dapat free of bias, talagang qualified, highly qualified. In other words, impressive ang kanyang qualification, he said adding that those who would be present at the meeting with the President were Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez.

Aguirre said that he already talked to Duque regarding the demand of one group to stop the autopsies and obtain a copy of the report of the PGH about the 14 deaths that PAO exhumed.

Aguirre recounted that Duque agreed with him that the bodies autopsied by the PAO forensics team led by Erfe had to be re-examined by a clinical pathologist we can consider really expert on this matter.

I think we are agreed na si Dr. Erfe is only a medico legal officer so ang kanyang opinion, if he made an opinion on the deaths from Dengvaxia, did not come from an expert opinion, said Aguirre.

Despite this, the Secretary said that PAO's autopsies on suspected Dengvaxia victims would continue.

I see no reason why it should be stopped at this time. Because you could not determine the cause of death of these people unless you exhumed and you autopsied these remains, he added.

Aguirre earlier tapped PAO to provide legal assistance to families of children who developed severe dengue that led to either death or serious illnesses after getting the vaccine. He said he saw no reason yet to stop the ongoing autopsies.

Since the PGH-Dengue Investigative Task Force (DITF) has been tasked by the DOH to conduct the autopsies, Doctors for Public Welfare (DPW) urged the DOJ to just leave the matter of determining the cause of death to competent forensic pathologists.

DITF released the results of its review on the first 14 reported Dengvaxia-associated deaths.

Apart from PAO, the DOJ also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the controversial PHP3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the DOH that reportedly posed health risks to children already injected but without history of the disease. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency