The Philippines’ Department of Health launched the world’s first public dengue immunization drive last year to the tune of $69.54 million. Dengvaxia is the vaccine used, produced by Sanofi. On Dec 1st, the Department of Health halted the use of Dengvaxia. Sanofi said the vaccine should not have been used. Nearly 734,000 children aged 9 and over in the Philippines have received the vaccine.
Sanofi said the vaccine should only be used on individuals previously infected with dengue, due to evidence it can worsen the disease in people not previously exposed to the infection.
What Is Dengue Fever?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue is a mosquito-borne “pandemic-prone viral disease” and can produce severe flu-like symptoms, breathing problems, hemorrhaging, and organ failure. WHO says that about half the world’s population is at risk of dengue, and estimates indicate nearly 400 million are infected every year. Dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in many Asian and Latin American countries. The global incidence of dengue has risen dramatically in recent decades, according to WHO.
What We Know
Sanofi’s Dengvaxia is the first-ever approved vaccine for dengue. The company says the vaccine is also registered in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, and Venezuela. The vaccine has also been used in a public immunization program in Brazil, which makes a total of around one million people who have had a dose of the drug.
Sanofi explained “new findings” at a news conference in Manila, but the World Health Organization issued a report in mid-2016 that identified the risk. A non-governmental organization said it had received information that three children died who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia, and a senator said he was aware of two other cases. The Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo told Reuters that the three children referenced died due to causes not related to the vaccine, and Sanofi claims that no deaths have been attributed to the program.
For those not previously infected by dengue virus, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” – Sanofi
The WHO now recommends that Dengvaxia is only to be administered to subjects “known to have been infected with dengue prior to vaccination,” pending a full review of the study.
As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination.” – Ruby Dizon, Sanofi’s Medical Director
What’s Being Done?
The Philippines ordered a probe on Monday into the immunization program, and the program was suspended on Friday, December 1st. According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, further information will be released on Dec. 12 or 13 by the WHO advisory body, Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization.
- Philippine president vows to get to the bottom of dengue vaccine ‘health scam’ – Reuters
- Philippines launches probe into dengue vaccine scare – BBC News
- Philippines prepared for ‘worst-case scenario’ after 733,000 given dengue vaccine that could worsen disease – The Independent
- Dengue vaccine program halted in Philippines after study shows it could worsen outbreak – Fox News
- Philippines orders probe into Sanofi dengue vaccine for 730,000 children – Reuters
- Dengue – World Health Organization
- Dengue and severe dengue – World Health Organization