Duque appeals to PAO chief to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Duque appeals to PAO chief to get vaccinated against COVID-19
This 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

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III appealed to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after she revealed that she has opted not to get the shot due to age and health reasons.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the sidelines of the rollout of boosters at a pharmacy in Manila, Duque said Acosta’s age and supposed health woes make it all the more important for her to get vaccinated.

“I am appealing to PAO chief Acosta because I think she’s almost a senior citizen and she should be given additional protection through vaccination,” the health chief said in Filipino. “We don’t want her to end up in a dangerous state.”

The unvaccinated Acosta admitted in television interviews that she has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine as she is waiting for a protein-based jab due to her medical history of hypertension and allergic reactions.

Acosta said she is not an anti-vaxxer, or someone who is completely opposed to vaccination.

READ: Acosta's refusal to get COVID-19 jab contributes to vaccine hesitancy — Drilon

Her refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has prompted calls from opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon for her to be barred from reporting to work as she is “putting the life, health and safety of her co-workers in danger.”

Acosta’s boss, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, said he has advised her to follow government rules on reporting to work despite being unvaccinated, which include getting tested for the coronavirus every two weeks.

'We have saved a lot of lives'

The PAO chief has long been accused of being an anti-vaxxer as she fervently crusaded against the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine, which she blamed for the deaths of hundreds of children who have been inoculated with it despite having no solid evidence except for the examinations done by her office’s forensic team which experts have cast doubt on.

Her legal campaign against public and private officials who had a hand in the procurement of Dengvaxia, including Duque, has been blamed for the erosion of trust in vaccines which led to a decline in vaccination coverage and eventually to an outbreak of measles and polio.

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

But Acosta insisted that it was not her fault that vaccination rates slumped after the Dengvaxia controversy and instead blamed the Department of Health for supposedly failing to campaign for measles immunization.

Now, with new COVID-19 cases rising to record highs, the government is going hard on its coronavirus vaccination program by placing curbs on the unvaccinated, including banning them on public transportation.

For Duque, while a public official like Acosta opting not to get vaccinated is not a slap on the government’s face, he said that she should open her mind about getting the jab.

“Perhaps PAO chief Acosta should be more open-minded to support the vaccines because billions of people have been vaccinated and we have saved a lot of lives,” Duque said. — with a report from Kristine Joy Patag







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