‘Dengvaxia will not help solve epidemic’ — doctors
MANILA, Philippines — The controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia will likely not help stop the ongoing national epidemic and Filipinos should instead focus on prevention and timely recognition in management.
Government and private physicians made the assessment as the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 167,606 cases nationwide with 661 deaths as of July 27.
And even if the government lifts the ban on Dengvaxia, it will still take months before this could be made available to the public.
“It would have to again undergo a thorough study,” said Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo, who is also the officer in charge of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
French vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur last week asked the DOH to reconsider the ban it imposed after Dengvaxia was blamed for the deaths of 142 people, most of whom were children.
Decision out soon
Domingo said that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III may come out with a decision no later than Aug. 19 but it would take at least another three months before the vaccine can be allowed to be distributed.
He noted that this was because the parameters for the vaccine’s use had already changed, following Sanofi’s own admission that Dengvaxia can cause severe dengue to those who have never been exposed to dengue.
Fresh approval process
“It would have to again undergo a thorough study. We have to look at the evidence for the relabeling and what are the indications—if it is correct relabeling and if it follows our rules and regulations,” said Domingo.
As it stands, Domingo said they were not even considering to include Dengvaxia in the DOH’s mass immunization program because the vaccine can only be used on children aged 9 and older who have had a documented history of dengue.
Early this year, the FDA permanently revoked Dengvaxia’s certificate of product registration after the firm failed to comply with regulatory requirements, including documentary evidence of the vaccine’s safety and effectivity.
Domningo pointed out that local experts and the National Immunization Council would need “further scientific evidence” before a decision can be arrived at recommending the inclusion of Dengvaxia in the government’s immunization program.
Not a solution
“There’s still a lot to be done… This isn’t something that just because it’s there it would immediately be made available to everyone,” he said.
Physician Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, agreed that Dengvaxia would likely not curb the number of cases this year.
“But it can be part of our preventive strategy. If we want an immediate impact, what we should do are prevention, early recognition and timely management [of dengue],” Ong-Lim said.
Domingo said dengue cases were still expected to rise, especially since the peak season for the disease had just started and may last till November.
The DOH declared a national dengue epidemic on Aug. 7 after the deaths of 622 people since January from 146,062 cases.
Duque described the rate of infection placed at 5,100 cases per week as “staggering” and said Dengvaxia was not meant to be a response to an epidemic.
Duque said the World Health Organization did not recommend the vaccine as an outbreak response because there was no reliable test that would establish prior dengue infection.
Besides, Dengvaxia was not even aimed at the most vulnerable age group of 5-9 years old, aside from its cost of P1,000 per dose, which Duque deemed not to be cost-effective.
Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus carried by mosquitos and is endemic in tropical countries.
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