DOH: Dengvaxia vaccine failure eyed in 2 dengue deaths

By Sheila Crisostomo


PGH expert panel head Dr. Juliet Sio-Aguilar (right) along with Health Undersecretary Rolando Domingo and PGH director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi present the results of the probe on Dengvaxia yesterday. Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — An expert panel from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) confirmed that three of the 14 schoolchildren who died after being administered Dengvaxia had developed dengue after vaccination, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

However, DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo clarified in a press conference that the three cases were found to be “coincidental because there was inconsistent causal association to immunization.”

“There was vaccine failure in two of the cases but not for the 830,000 children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia. So far, it’s vaccine failure for these particular cases,” he said.

Domingo added that the 10-member UP-PGH Dengue Investigative Task Force (DITF) was able to establish that the three children developed “dengue hemorrhagic shock.”

But he maintained that the DOH is not about to associate the deaths to Dengvaxia pending further investigation. 

The 14 cases were submitted by the DOH to the DITF for investigation to determine if their deaths were related to Dengvaxia.

Domingo said the panel had used World Health Organization’s Algorithm for Causality Assessment of Adverse Events Following Immunization, ‘’a systematic, scientifically sound and universally accepted (proof) of assessing causality of events following any vaccination.”

He added that the findings have “strengthened” the position of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to suspend the agency’s school-based dengue immunization program.

The DOH is set to submit the findings of the DITF to the Department of Justice, which is investigating the mess created by Dengvaxia. 

According to expert panel head and UP Manila-PGH Department of Pediatrics chair Juliet Aguilar, they found that three of the 14 children had “dengue shock syndrome.”

She said during a presentation that there was “causal association” between the deaths of the three children with dengue and Dengvaxia.  

Two of them may be on account of “vaccine failure” since they were able to complete the three-dose vaccination. It is suspected that the other one had dengue incubation when vaccinated as the patient died four days after receiving the first dose. 

Aguilar reported that two of the 14 children died from acute leukemia; one from lupus nephritis (inflammation of the kidney); one from congenital heart disease; one from brain infection; one from brain hemorrhage; one from rheumatic heart disease; one from septic shock and one from cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

 Two of the cases were “unclassified” due to inadequate information available. 

“It takes a long process to understand what happened to a patient. 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 that is regularly circulating (here),” she added.

PGH director Gerardo Legaspi said the DITF came up with its recommendations based on “molecular, cellular and DNA studies” and not only by opening up bodies and examining organs.

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