PAO slams anti-vaxxer tag, says it did not erode trust on vaccines
MANILA, Philippines — The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has disputed claims that it is being anti-vaccine and insisted that it did not erode trust in the government’s immunization programs.
In a statement on Monday which was attached to updates on the Dengvaxia vaccine cases, PAO stressed that people involved in the anomalous anti-dengue vaccination program are pinning the blame on their office for lack of a better argument.
“The PAO is not anti-vaccine. For lack of a better defense, personalities linked to Dengvaxia have vilified the PAO, making the PAO appear as anti-vaxxers out to destroy people’s confidence in vaccines,” the office said.
“PAO will never encroach into politics, nor in public health issues. It seeks only to perform its mandate of giving justice to the victims and survivors and follow the DOJ directive of assisting Dengvaxia victims,” it added.
PAO said that it is issuing the statement as it accuses people behind the Dengvaxia vaccination program of setting a media campaign to malign PAO and at the same time hurt the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plans.
The office did not elaborate on the identities of the people supposedly mounting attacks against it and the government, but Dengvaxia — the world’s first anti-dengue vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, was procured during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III.
But in 2017, Sanofi Pasteur withdrew Dengvaxia and warned Philippine authorities about a higher risk of infection and severe dengue for seronegative patients, or individuals vaccinated without first contracting dengue.
WHAT WENT BEFORE: Dengvaxia is world’s first dengue vaccine
Aquino and his administration’s officials were blamed for the fiasco, with the PAO claiming that several children vaccinated with Dengvaxia later suffered from severe dengue and died. PAO chief Persida Acosta meanwhile was accused of sensationalizing the issue to the point that Filipinos shunned other vaccines.
Several doctors and previous health officials have asked PAO to stop its Dengvaxia probe as it triggered panic among parents, who refused to have their children vaccinated. No less than Health Secretary Francisco Duque admitted that the Dengvaxia scare was responsible for the measles and polio outbreak that the country experienced before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recently, opposition figures including Vice President Leni Robredo have urged the government to be more transparent with the Covid-19 vaccine procurement while building an efficient communication plan, to offset the effects of the Dengvaxia scare.
Different surveys have come out to assess whether Filipinos will welcome the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines. Research group Social Weather Stations said in a survey last November that 66 percent of Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Meanwhile, a separate Pulse Asia survey showed that 47 percent will not have themselves vaccinated even if the vaccines are free of charge.
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