Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aquirre II believes that a foreign pathologist is needed to conduct autopsies on the body of children who allegedly died from anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Aguirre said that he would raise the controversies hounding the Dengvaxia vaccine to President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting on Thursday at Malacañang.
“I am going to emphasize that we need a clinical pathologist or an expert on matter,” Aguirre told media.
The Justice Secretary noted that the expert will come from another country with impactful proficiency.
“It will not be a Filipino. It will come from abroad who can establish definitely the linkage between the Dengvaxia and the death or injuries suffered by the students,” he said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, along with Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez, and Secretary Salvador Medialdea, will be present at the meeting with Duterte.
In his recent meeting, Aguirre stressed that he already discussed with Roque and Duque the significance of having a foreign pathologist in performing autopsies on the bodies.
“I impressed upon the two [Duque and Roque] na dapat merong opinion ng isang pathologist (that there should be an opinion of a pathologist),” he said.
According to the Justice Secretary, a clinical pathologist that they consider to have impressive qualification should look into the bodies of the children autopsied by the PAO forensics team headed by Dr. Erwin Erfe.
“I think we are agreed na si (that) Dr. Erfe is only a medico-legal officer so, ang kanyang opinion (his opinion), if he made an opinion on the deaths from Dengvaxia, is not an expert opinion,” Aguirre said.
He added that the PAO will proceed performing autopsies of suspected Dengvaxia victims despite having a foreign expert on the team.
On February 3, Doctors for Public Welfare (DPW), led by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to halt the autopsies being conducted by PAO forensic team and “leave the matter of determining the cause of death to competent forensic pathologists.”
The group said that Erfe is not qualified forensic pathologist and was “wrong in practically all of the 14” diagnosis he examined, mentioning the findings of University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) that the deaths were not connected to the Dengvaxia.
The report stated that three of the 14 children died due to what they called dengue shock syndrome, while two of the three deaths could have resulted from vaccine failure.
Aguirre, however, said that PAO will continue to conduct autopsies on the children as he has “no order for PAO to stop the autopsies.” He added that he would welcome a “written position” from DPW, explaining why the autopsies should be halted.