A Filipino expert today urged groups and Philippine authorities to give heed to the findings by Dr. Scott Halstead who denied allegations that Dengvaxia had caused the deaths of kids reportedly after vaccination.
Child infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana of the National Institute of Health (NIH) of the University of the Philippines made the appeal shortly after meeting Dr. Halstead a globally known expert in the field of anti-dengue research. Halstead met Salvana who is one of a group of doctors working for the development of an anti NS1 antigen test kit.
The 87 year old medical scientist flew into the country after his studies were quoted extensively by detractors of Dengvaxia and the Public Attorney’s Office. Dr. Tony Leachon, Dr. Susie Mercado and even the head of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Persida Acosta extensively used Halstead’s study in trying to prove a link between dengvaxia and the kid’s deaths.
Touted as the “star witness” of the prosecution, Halstead appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and testified that dengvaxia has not been known to cause deaths among patients who were given the vaccine.
Halstead’s describes it as “nonsense” allegations that dengvaxia had caused viscerotropism and neurotropism among kids injected by dengvaxia. The doctor described these as “theoretical risks” and have never been observed in real life for dengvaxia.
This runs contrary to Dr. Leachon’s pronouncement of a possible severe dengue outbreak in the Philippines. It likewise contradicted claims made by Dr. Susie Mercado who was the first one to link viscerotropism and neurotropism to the deaths of the kids.
“He (Halstead) was more straightforward in calling it utter nonsense as the causative agent of all these so-called dengue deaths,” the NIH expert adds. Halstead’s testimony destroyed the allegations made by so-called health expert Dr. Susie Mercado who first raised the alarm that the exhumed kids died after being vaccinated by Dengvaxia.
Though not necessarily blaming the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) for asking parents to exhume their dead child and look for traces or evidence linking dengvaxia to their deaths, Salvana agrees with Halstead that autopsies alone cannot prove that deaths are linked to Dengvaxia.
“ Autopsies alone are useless for figuring out whether someone died from dengvaxia. For dengue, you need corroborating nucleic acid and antigen tests and tissue samples,”
Despite pleas from doctors and experts, PAO self-appointed forensic expert Dr. Edwin Erfe continues to conduct autopsies of dead kids throughout the country. Erfe refuses to acknowledge Halstead’s admonition, causing discomfiture among various sectors in the country.
The controversy linking dengvaxia over the deaths of some kids among the 830,000 kids vaccinated during the DOH public vaccination program has caused tremendous anxiety and panic among Filipino parents.
DOH secretary Francisco Duque admitted that the surrounding controversy has affected the health department’s vaccination program. Recently, a dengue outbreak in Cavite has caused alarm from health authorities due to its proximity to Metro Manila.