File photo shows Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta together with families of children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file
DOJ: Acosta 'did not mean to scare' public with Dengvaxia probe
Kristine Joy Patag ( - February 7, 2019 - 11:22am

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said that Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta “did not intend to scare” the public and discourage vaccination.

Guevarra told reporters that Acosta “is just doing her job and certainly does not intend to scare the public about the possible negative effects of vaccination in general."

PAO is the principal law office of the government that is tasked to “provide indigent sector access to counsel at the time of need.”

It is also mandated to “implement the Constitutional guarantee of free access to courts, due process, and equal protection of the laws.”

Acosta has become the face of those who claim that their loved ones died due to inoculation with the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

She personally led the filing of at least 32 criminal complaints before the DOJ in the past year.

The PAO chief usually arrives at the Justice department with a throng of people carrying framed photos of their loved ones.

She also shed tears on television, lamenting the deaths allegedly due to the anti-dengue vaccine.

Acosta was also quoted in at least one media interview as saying that there is a strong link between the anti-dengue vaccine and the deaths, even claiming that one does not need to be a doctor—despite the claim being a scientific one at that—to say so.

Actual doctors, including forensic pathologists, have disputed her claim.

READ: How the Dengvaxia scare helped erode decades of public trust in vaccines

Measles outbreak

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said that Acosta’s “basesless” attacks against his department eroded the public’s trust on DOH and vaccination.

The Department of Health also on Thursday said that there is an "increasing trend" of measles cases in Metro Manila, Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Bicol region.

Measles, a highly contagious respiratory disease, can be prevented through  vaccination.

For 2018, the Health department reported vaccine coverage of 40 percent, a significant drop from 2016 to 2017,when coverage was 70 to 80 percent of target.

Acosta has since distanced herself from the issue and cried that it was “unfair” to put the blame on her.

She said that the DOH should work on campaigning for vaccination instead of pinning blame on her.

Government campaign

The Justice chief added that the Department of Health, with the support of President Rodrigo Duterte, would implement a campaign to inform people on the “necessity of vaccination to prevent common illnesses such as flu and measles.”

Duterte encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated, noting that since the controversy on Dengvaxia broke out, there were families who opted against vaccination in general.

In a speech on January 28, the president said: “Do not be lulled and be complacent about it because a baby really needs it. If you do not want Dengvaxia, that’s okay.”

The Dengvaxia controversy affected countries other than the Philippines. Other nations, however, opted to recalibrate their guidelines.

DOJ resolution on Dengvaxia case on February

Guevarra said that he has instructed the prosecution panel to resolve the criminal complaints over Dengvaxia this month.

There have been 32 cases, with some batches covering more than one death, pending before the DOJ prosecution panel.

The first batch of criminal raps was submitted for resolution early November 2018

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