DOH: Dengvaxia can prevent future dengue epidemics

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 12) — The Department of Health admitted that controversial Dengvaxia vaccine can be useful in preventing future dengue epidemics.

“It could probably be useful for epidemics in the future. So ‘yung mga nagkasakit ngayon, babakunahan natin sila para hindi na sila magkakaroon in the future,” DOH spokesperson Eric Domingo told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

[Translation: It could probably be useful for epidemics in the future. So we can vaccinate those who fell sick so that they won’t get sick in the future.]

Domingo, however, echoed a doctors’ group assertion that Dengvaxia would not ease the ongoing dengue epidemic in the country.

The Philippine Pediatric Society and Pediatric Infection Disease Society of the Philippines have said that Dengvaxia has been proven safe and effective, most especially to those who have had dengue previously.

“Unfortunately, this vaccine is no longer available in the country,” the two pediatric associations said in a statement last week.

READ: Leave it to experts to assess Dengvaxia use, Robredo says

Dengvaxia is no longer allowed to be sold, imported in the Philippines following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) revocation of its product registration certificate because its manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur, supposedly failed to comply with post-marketing authorization requirements.

This came after reports of over a hundred children dying after getting the dengue vaccine. The Public Attorney’s Office is pursuing legal action against pharmaceutical companies and government officials over their deaths, even if there is no conclusive evidence that would link Dengvaxia to their demise.

TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy

Talk of bringing back Dengvaxia onto Philippine shelves was reignited by a surge of dengue cases in the country, with the number of those infected hitting a five-year high of 167,606 as of July 27. Over 600 have died from dengue from January to July 20.

President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed openness in lifting the ban on Dengvaxia. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said last week that the department would decide in 10 to 14 days on the fate of the vaccine.

But Domingo, who is also the FDA’s officer-in-charge, said it could still take months for Dengvaxia to be available again for the public in the event that Duque overturns their decision on the dengue vaccine.

Domingo said the FDA would have to review Dengvaxia’s new label which would contain new information on who the dengue vaccine can be given to.

The Philippines’ decision to pull out Dengvaxia runs counter to moves of other countries to allow the sale and use of the anti-dengue vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the vaccine is licensed in 20 countries.

The WHO also said that Dengvaxia has been shown to be 79.1 percent effective in the year following vaccination. It was more effective against dengue serotypes 3 and 4, at 71.6 percent and 76.9 percent, respectively, than serotypes 1 and 2, at 54.7 percent and 43.0 percent, respectively.

However, the WHO has also cautioned that countries who would want to include Dengvaxia in their dengue control program should conduct pre-screening of patients to ensure that only those who have been previously infected with dengue are vaccinated.

Sanofi-Pasteur has admitted that those who have not had a past dengue infection may develop severe dengue once they get infected with the disease upon vaccination with Dengvaxia.