By Ralph Villanueva & Jomar Canlas/Manila Times
In an attempt to rebuild the trust of the public in the government’s immunisation programme, President Rodrigo Duterte himself would help in disseminating information regarding vaccines, a Malacanang official said yesterday.
The president’s move came after a measles outbreak in several areas in the country was announced by the Department of Health (DoH).
“I heard the president say that he will help DoH Secretary (Francisco) Duque in trying to gain the public’s trust in the DoH’s immunisation programme,” Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said in an interview aired over state-owned Radyo Pilipinas.
“The president himself will help in the communications, he will say something in one of the coming events,” he added.
Andanar said the Health department had asked his office for help in the vaccination programme over the Dengvaxia vaccination scare.
“You know, that is really the negative effect, the bad effect of the issue of Dengvaxia because the other immunisation programmes are affected, measles, and other diseases like pneumonia and other illnesses that can be avoided through immunisation,” he added.
The vaccine scare was caused by controversy over the anti-dengue Dengvaxia vaccine, which was used in the massive vaccination campaign.
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) was tapped to assist those whose children died after being inoculated with the vaccine.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta earlier said she did not need to be a medical professional to know that the Dengvaxia vaccine is dangerous.
In the wake of the Dengvaxia controversy, immunisation coverage in 2018 slid to 40% from at least 70% in the last few years, the Health department said.
It said there were no direct links between the vaccine and the deaths.
In a news briefing last week, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Acosta cannot be blamed for the vaccine scare since she was only doing her job.
But he noted that Duque believed that Acosta aggravated the situation by filing cases against the Health secretary.
“Nobody blamed anybody there. But Secretary Duque was complaining how the PAO had impleaded him in several cases, and that is one of the reasons why according to him people are hesitant (because they lost trust in the government) because of the Dengvaxia scare,” Panelo said.
Acosta yesterday told Manila Times that Duque was resorting to diversionary tactics instead of doing his job of putting up a good vaccination campaign.
She said Duque should face his day in court to answer questions on the deaths caused by the Dengvaxia vaccine.Several criminal charges were slapped against the Health chief before the Department of Justice by families of the victims.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara gave assurances that the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and violations of the Anti-Torture Act and Consumer Act against Duque shall be resolved based on evidence.
Guevara said Malacanang will not have a hand in a resolution of the DoJ on the charges against Duque and other respondents, including former Health secretary Janette Garin.
Another complaint was filed before the DoJ against former president Benigno Aquino, former budget secretary Florencio Abad and Garin for the procurement of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
They were charged with technical malversation for using the savings from the fiscal year 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund for the immunisation programme.
The respondents were also charged with multiple homicide and physical injuries through negligence under the Revised Penal Code by the families of the victims.
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