Aquino appeals for calm amid Dengvaxia scare
Former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said it was the obligation of government to keep the public calm by providing them with the most information it could about the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and advise them on what to do.
He stood by his administration’s decision to use Dengvaxia as the anti-dengue vaccine administered to young school children who were most vulnerable to the mosquito-borne disease.
“We would not insist on using this without the process completed,” Aquino said, referring to the various studies and trials that a manufacturer conducts when developing drugs.
Aquino said he does not want to criticize the incumbent administration for its response to vaccine manufacturer Sanofi’s announcement that Dengvaxia was effective to those who have had dengue and those inoculated but have not had dengue could have more severe symptoms.
“Instead, I want to make an appeal,” Aquino said at a news conference following the Senate investigation.
“I am appealing that it is the obligation of government, it is in the Constitution, that it is the right of the people to be given information for them to make the right and correct decisions. Give them all the information that you possess so that they could make the right decision,” Aquino said.
Aquino observed that following Sanofi’s announcement, he noticed that everyone talked about the severity of the effect of Dengvaxia even if it appeared that not everyone agreed on exactly what “severe” meant.
“If we listen to all those who have spoken, [they] all went straight to the most severe. Sanofi said that there could be two additional days of fever, platelets could drop, there could be bruising. But from the additional two days of fever, there were already talks of death and organ failure. That was a huge leap,” Aquino said.
“It is the obligation of government to calm down people, to talk to them properly, and advise them what to do if they see the symptoms of dengue, such as immediately go to the health center and the rural health units,” he said, adding in Filipino:
“Let us be clear. Let us not spread fear because that could prevent people from doing what should be done right.”
After reading his prepared statement, Aquino was asked only a few questions and ended up sitting through the six-and-a-half hour Senate hearing led by Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon listening to the other resource persons.
Still, he appeared satisfied with his decision to appear at the investigation.
“I think I clarified it especially to everybody who listened to it, and to those who were listening to it with an open mind. If there were people listening to it who probably had closed minds then i couldn’t change their position,” Aquino said.
“We have heard various comments from [different] sectors. In the absence of information, there is speculation. I think I was given some opportunity to clarify exactly what our perspective was, when that perspective was arrived at and what we did about it. I think a lot of the points I wanted to make were made by others,” Aquino added.
He said that should the House of Representatives invite him to its similar investigation, he was likely to request them first for a list of questions.
Aquino reiterated what he said in his statement that given the situation that dengue was becoming prevalent nationwide, his administration was presented with a viable solution.
He stressed there was no “evil intent” in the decision he and his officials made when they approved the Dengvaxia vaccine.
Asked if he thought Sanofi should be held accountable, he said: “If it can be proven that they withheld information or pertinent information, yes.”
Aquino appeared miffed at Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer for the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), who read a statement at the hearing urging the committee to look for evidence against Aquino and his officials, and file a case of plunder against them.
“Of course, you want to tell him he is destroying our reputation. We can sue you for slander because of the accusations you’ve made…. Urging the committee to investigate to prove [wrongdoing], but it is the duty of the accuser to find the evidence,” Aquino said.
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