Convenient scapegoat
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Whenever governments slip up, they hastily try to find a convenient scapegoat. That is the inconvenient truth. So when a massive measles outbreak descended on the Philippines when it is no longer supposed to, health officials scrambled to find someone, or something, upon whom to ascribe all, or at least part, of the blame.

 

They quickly found one --the shrill, high-profile, but very upright Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta. Leading the defense of victims of mysterious deaths in the midst of the controversy over the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, Acosta had been very vocal about her assertions that the vaccine had something to do with the deaths.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur itself sparked the controversy about a couple of years ago when it recalled the vaccine, a pioneering drug against the mosquito-borne disease, citing certain issues. The Philippines was one of a handful of countries that placed orders for the drug and swiftly used it in a massive public immunization campaign.

It was widely suspected that the massive anti-dengue campaign launched in the dying weeks of the previous Noynoy Aquino government was actually a last ditch effort to stave off stinging defeat for his party in the election that was to follow very soon after. As things turned out, not only was his party clobbered in the polls, the vaccination effort also backfired.

Now, another disease is stirring up Philippine politics. With a measles outbreak providentially coming on the heels of findings that Aquino and former health officials under him deserve to be charged for ordering the use of Dengvaxia despite the issues acknowledged by its own maker, initiatives quickly emerged to deflect attention from potential culprits for its reemergence.

Measles is supposed to be a globally “beaten” disease. If it has come back, despite claims of success by health officials in their department's previous vaccination campaigns, then something must have gone terribly wrong and for which the blame must be heaped somewhere else.

Enter Acosta. Her loud protestations against Dengvaxia may have, according to health officials, scared off parents sufficiently for them to shy away from having their children submitted to any form of vaccination, including for measles. To them, Acosta is the boy who cried wolf, the person who shouted fire in a theatre.

That is a lot of nonsense. You blame the boy only if there is no wolf, or the person in the theatre if there is no fire. But Acosta did not conjure up Dengvaxia out of thin air. The mess surrounding it was itself instigated by its own maker. Those who say she is a lawyer, not a doctor, and therefore not credible, should have looked for the doctors and find them facing charges.

jerrytundag@yahoo.com

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