PGH report: 2 deaths may be due to vaccine failure

MANILA -- Two out of the 14 deaths of children given Dengvaxia that were investigated are now suspected to have been caused by vaccine failure, based on the initial report of the Philippine General Hospital - Dengue Investigate Task Force (PGH-DITF).

In a press conference, PGH-DITF chair Dr. Juliet Sio-Aguilar said they found three children to have died due to dengue shock syndrome despite being vaccinated with Dengvaxia, two of which may be on account of vaccine failure.

"We cannot say anything (to that effect), but we can say that they contracted dengue, the wild type. All of them succumbed to the dengue wild type virus,” said Sio-Aguilar.

She explained that, of the three deaths, two children died after receiving three doses of the vaccine while one died days after being given only the first dose.

She related that the two children, who completed the three doses, fell ill a month after the third dose, and died five days after the onset of the illness.

On the other hand, she said the other one fell ill only four days after the first dose, dying five days after the onset of the illness.

Sio-Aguilar also noted that despite being given Dengvaxia, only one of the three developed dengue antibodies, which were supposed to serve as protection against dengue.

“We really want to know what happened. The third case developed antibodies, protection against dengue, but the child still died,” Sio-Aguilar said.

This, she said, means that the three cases of children who died of dengue, must still undergo tissue evaluation for polymerase chain reaction, and antibodies to yellow fever and dengue viruses.

Meanwhile, the PGH-DITF report also showed that six other cases were attributed to unscreened comorbidities, such as congenital heart disease, brain infection, pontine hemorrhage, and cardiac arrhythmia, but died within 30 days after receiving the vaccine.

Another three deaths were found to be coincidental because there was inconsistent causal association to immunization.

Finally, two deaths were deemed unclassifiable due to inadequate information available.

The PGH-DITF submitted to the Department of Health (DOH) its report, which used the WHO Algorithm for Causality Assessment of Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI), which according to health officials, is a systematic, scientifically sound, and universally accepted process of assessing causality of events following any vaccination.

According to the DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo, the initial results of the PGH-DITF only proves that they took the necessary action in stopping the mass vaccination program.

"These results strengthen our decision to suspend the dengue immunization program. Dengvaxia is not fit for a mass immunization program that does not screen for prior dengue infection and comorbidities of children before the administration of the vaccine,” said Domingo.

He said the DOH will now hand over the PGH-DITF report along with the National Expert Panel report to the Department of Justice.

"This is so that they may use them in the fulfillment of their mandate to investigate and prosecute those who are possibly accountable," said Domingo.

To recall, the DOH had tapped the PGH to serve as an independent group of experts that would review the cases of mortalities among Dengvaxia vaccines recipients.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection found in tropical countries worldwide. It is a flu-like disease that can cause joint pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash and can cause breathing problems, hemorrhaging and organ failure in severe cases.

WHO said about half the world's population is at risk of dengue, with a recent estimate indicating 390 million infections per year. In the Philippines, about 200,000 dengue infections are reported each year, with less than 1 percent resulting in deaths, the Department of Health said. (HDT/SunStar Philippines with AP)
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