March 22, 2018

Philippines puts dengue immunization program on hold

02 December 2017, 12:21 | Rodolfo Wallace

Health Department halts dengue vaccination program

If you haven't had dengue infection, don't use our vaccine, drug company warns

The Philippines has put on hold its 3.5 billion-peso (S$94 million) dengue vaccination programme, following an alert issued by French pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi Pasteur, that its Dengvaxia vaccine could prove harmful to people never infected by the mosquito-borne disease.

Those who had dengue infection prior to immunization will truly benefit from the vaccine, the health authorities stressed.

But for those not previously infected by the virus, more cases of severe disease could occur in the long term following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection, Sanofi said.

To that end, Sanofi said, it will ask regulatory agencies to update the prescribing information for Dengvaxia by adding a request that healthcare professionals evaluate the likelihood of prior dengue infection in patients before vaccination.

"The DOH assures the public that it is serious in carrying out its mandate to always guard the health and well-being of its constituents".

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque has ordered a stop to the distribution and administration of anti-dengue vaccines.

On Wednesday, Sanofi $SNY said that their investigators had determined that Dengvaxia presented a real threat to patients who were vaccinated against dengue without having first been exposed to it.

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The DoH announcement came after receiving a preliminary briefing on November 29 from Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

At least 730,000 children have already received the first of three doses of the vaccine as of Nov 17. We want their official definition of what is "severe".

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said further recommendation will be released on December 12 or 13 by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization, an advisory body of the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva called for accountability in the vaccine mess that could have a long-term effect to more than 733,000 children who had undergone the government's vaccination program. "Sanofi should also be made accountable for their haphazard release of the drugs without complete and proper clinical studies".

"As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I intend to call for an investigation on the disturbing findings related to the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia", he said.

"The DOH and the Department of Education should also closely monitor the kids that were vaccinated and ensure that proper medical support will be provided to them", he added.

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