DOH won’t rush review on controversial dengue vaccine
Published on: Friday, August 09, 2019

MANILA: The government is not about to recommend the possible return of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine even after the Department of Health (DOH) declared a national epidemic of the mosquito-borne disease.

The government in 2017 stopped giving the vaccine to schoolchildren after drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur revealed it could cause more severe symptoms among those who have not had dengue.

The French firm last month appealed the revocation of Dengvaxia’s certificate of product registration.

DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said legal experts of the DOH are studying the appeal filed by Sanofi Pasteur.

He said Sanofi Pasteur is supposed to release its 60-month follow-up study on Dengvaxia’s efficacy soon.

Pending this, Domingo said the vaccine cannot be marketed and used in the country.

“We need the complete documentation and final result of the studies so we can thoroughly examine this before using it again. It is not being fast-tracked. We should not connect this to the current dengue outbreak because it won’t be a solution,” Domingo said.

Domingo stressed the Dengvaxia vaccine is not the answer to the current dengue epidemic hitting the country.

“Dengvaxia is definitely not for the epidemic. It’s not an epidemic response vaccine,” he said.

Reports of alleged deaths attributed to Dengvaxia spawned a vaccination scare that led to a drop in immunisation coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.

Domingo said the controversial vaccine will not even control the spread of dengue.

The DOH on Tuesday declared the country’s outbreak of dengue to be a national epidemic.

Domingo said the declaration of a national epidemic was meant to improve the response to the outbreak by allowing local governments to mobilise resources to the fullest.

“We have to tighten up our activities a little more and raise the bar because we have these cases going. We have to do everything to make sure that they don’t increase,” he added.

In declaring an epidemic, it means half of the country’s regions are affected, Domingo pointed out.

The DOH recorded 146,062 cases of dengue from January through July 20 this year, 98 percent more than the same period in 2018. It said the outbreak caused 622 deaths.

Based on DOH data, Western Visayas had the most number of cases at 23,330; followed by Calabarzon with 16,515; Zamboanga peninsula with 12,317; Northern Mindanao with 11,455, Soccsksargen with 11,083 cases.

Other regions also exceeded the alert threshold level, such as Ilocos with 4,396 cases; Central Visayas with 10,728; Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 2,301.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau chief Ferchito Avelino said the dengue epidemic could peak by October with as much as 10,000 new cases breaking out a week.

“By October, we are expecting a peak in dengue cases as dengue-carrying mosquitoes will start biting,” Avelino told reporters yesterday after testifying before a hearing of the Senate committee on health chaired by Sen. Christopher Go.

Avelino explained that October is the month when eggs of the Aedes aegypti mosquito are hatched. He also described 2019 as a “dengue year” as the dreaded disease spikes every three years. 


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