Dengvaxia suspected in doctor’s death
Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2018 - 12:00am

BINALONAN, Pangasinan, Philippines  — A doctor from this town reportedly died after he was inoculated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, which was found to be harmful to individuals with no prior dengue infection. 

Kendrick Gotoc died on Sunday in a hospital in Quezon City. His body was brought home to Barangay Canarvacanan on Monday. He was 38.

Gotoc was a consultant of a rural health unit in Quezon City. He finished medicine at the Lyceum Northwestern University in Dagupan City and specialized in internal medicine.

Municipal Councilor Ryan Gotoc told The STAR yesterday that his brother Kendrick informed the family last December that he received three shots of Dengvaxia two years ago and he had been experiencing side effects.

His family observed that he was losing weight and suffered from headache, loss of appetite, stomach pain and skin rashes.

Ryan said Kendrick was among the first group administered with Dengvaxia as it was reportedly a requirement.

Kendrick also had six patients who received Dengvaxia and they also eventually died.

Kendrick’s mother Norma said her son’s dream was to be a hospital doctor and was preparing for it by taking up master’s degree in medicine.

The Gotoc family said they will file charges against individuals or groups for the death of Kendrick.

Ryan said Kendrick also made a medical report about Dengvaxia and their family will give it to the agencies concerned.

The family said they have laboratory results supporting their suspicion that Kendrick’s death was related to Dengvaxia. But they refused to have his body undergo autopsy.

Ana Ma. Teresa de Guzman, provincial health officer, said it is not yet conclusive that Kendrick’s death was due to Dengvaxia.

“Dr. Kendrick told them he was vaccinated with Dengvaxia three times but we cannot conclude yet as we have not received copy of his laboratory results and we have to know his medical history,” De Guzman said. 

She advised the Gotoc family to give a copy of the laboratory results to the National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Health and the Quezon City health office where Kendrick worked.

Health chief faces charges

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was slapped with an obstruction of justice charge before the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday for allegedly blocking the investigation on the deaths of schoolchildren inoculated with Dengvaxia.

The parents of 13-year-old Abbie Hedia from Muntinlupa City, one of 47 deaths allegedly caused by the anti-dengue vaccine documented so far by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), filed the complaint against Duque.

Hedia received the vaccine in November 2017 and died last Feb. 10, during which the Department of Health (DOH) was already under Duque’s watch.

The PAO forensic team found that Hedia died due to multiple organ failure and extensive brain hemorrhage. 

The complainants accused Duque of refusal to share the master list of children inoculated with Dengvaxia with the PAO, which was tapped by the DOJ to conduct fact-finding investigation and build cases from the immunization program through issuance of Administrative Order No. 2018-0011.

“There is no doubt that Secretary Duque is effectively and willfully suppressing and concealing the records of the victims and the cadavers of the deceased victims – a matter that is subject to criminal investigations by several government agencies including PAO,” read the 19-page complaint.

The Hedia couple also cited as evidence AO No. 2018-0007 and 2018-0147 issued by Duque that allegedly further prevented PAO from effectively investigating the deaths.

The first order required that autopsy of victims be conducted by DOH teams while the second provided for P50,000 benefits for each family of victims through the department’s Public Assistant Unit (PAU) that reportedly caused confusion, especially to victims being assisted by the PAO.

The parents also accused Duque of conflict of interest, citing his affiliation with former health secretary Janette Garin.

“Secretary Duque served as chairman of the search committee to evaluate nominations for appointment of undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and board members of specialty hospitals and attached agencies in the DOH that Dr. Garin created during her term as DOH secretary,” they pointed out.

PAO chief Persida Acosta said this conflict of interest should have compelled Duque to inhibit from investigations on the Dengvaxia controversy.

Acosta also questioned the P50,000 being offered by DOH after receiving information that victims’ families were being asked not to cooperate with PAO anymore.

“One of the families already filed a civil suit against those liable for the Dengavaxia vaccine and asked for over P4 million in damages; P50,000 is too small for compensation because the court would have to include the amount that these children could earn if only they lived to grow up and provide for their families,” she explained.

Last week, the Hedia couple filed a separate complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Republic Act No. 9745 (Anti-Torture Act) against Duque, Garin and 34 others over their daughter’s death.

Repeal of vaccines law

Because of the controversy on Dengvaxia, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has called for the repeal of a provision in RA 10152, which grants the secretary of health the sole discretion in adding new vaccines to the mandatory basic immunization program of the government.

Pimentel sought the amendment of the Mandatory Infants and Health Immunization Act of 2011 so that Congress, and not the health secretary alone, would decide on adding vaccines to the program.

Under RA 10152, the mandatory basic immunization program for all infants and children covers tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella or German measles, Hepatitis-B and H. influenza type B.  – With Edu Punay, Marvin Sy

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