Manila: A non-governmental organisation comprising doctors and health workers has called on the Philippines government to stop performing autopsies on children who are suspected of having died after receiving a dengue vaccine manufactured by a French company

The medical experts say laboratory reports have shown that this was not the case.

“We urge the Department of Justice to order the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to stop performing autopsies on these children and leave the matter of determining the cause of death [of the children who received the Dengvaxia vaccine for free] to competent forensic pathologists,” Doctors for Public Welfare (DPW), which is led by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, said in a statement on Saturday.

“It makes no sense for any more families to be subjected to the torture of having a loved one exhumed and cut up only to find out that no useful information was derived from the cruel act,” the DPW said.

The statement was released in reaction to the report of Dr Erwin Erfe, the PAO’s forensic expert, who performed autopsies on children suspected of having died of dengue after receiving the Dengvaxia vaccine.

He linked some deaths to the controversial vaccine that was manufactured by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur.

The DPW said a clinical review was done, by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), of the autopsies that were carried out on 14 children.

“In fact, the deaths of 13 of them were totally unrelated to the [Dengvaxia] vaccine,” the DPW said, but did not say if its statement was quoted from PGH’s clinical review.

“This can happen when the vaccine is not stored properly and so loses its potency. It’s as if the children were never vaccinated. Hence, the two most likely died of dengue [but] not due to the [Dengvaxia] vaccine,” the DPW said.

“In the two of the children autopsied, it was noted that the vaccine failure may have been the case. This means that no anti-body enhanced reaction [which one could get after vaccination],” said the DPW.

Sanofi claimed it has not yet been proven that the children died from Dengvaxia.

Despite this, Sanofi paid P1.6 billion (Dh133.33 million) for unused vaccines in early January.

But the government has demanded for a total reimbursement of P3.5 billion (Dh291.6 million) which was used to buy the vaccines for its anti-dengue immunisation programme in 2016-2017. It has also demanded the allocation of financial assistance to families that suffer fatalities due to Dengvaxia.

In December 2017, the government suspended its anti-dengue vaccination campaign and stopped the sale and distribution of Dengvaxia after Sanofi admitted that some of the 830,000 students in state schools who were injected in April 2016, could suffer severe bleeding if they had no previous exposure to dengue. Since then, parents whose children died blamed Dengvaxia.

Some 400 million people worldwide suffer dengue, 9,000 of whom die, annually, the World Health Organisation said, adding the Philippines had 753 death in 2017.