PH dengue vaccine safe, effective – WHO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) said it was on the right track in its fight against dengue after an expert panel from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the administration of the world's first dengue vaccine in areas with high incidence of the mosquito-borne disease.

“This only proves that our country is on the right track in its incessant combat against dengue," Health Secretary Janette Garin said on Monday, April 18.

The DOH had earlier sought to ease concerns about the safety of the Dengvaxia vaccine, developed by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. It arrived in the Philippines in February, and is set to be administered to over 1 million Filipino schoolchildren in 3 regions which recorded the highest number of dengue cases in recent years.

“The number one main recommendation is that this vaccine is efficacious and safe but should be only used in populations where the disease incidence in the population is at least 50%," John Abramson, chair of the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), told a news conference in Geneva.

WHO SAGE said that the dengue vaccine is not recommended for use in children under 9 years old, and should be given in 3 doses at a 6-month interval. It also recommended that each country define the target age for routine vaccination.

On April 4, the DOH began its school-based immunization, administering dengue vaccines to Grade 4 students in Regions III, IV-A, and the National Capital Region. As of April 17, a total of 148,431 students out of 206,673 students were vaccinated.

The DOH said the first dose of the vaccine will be given from April to June 2016, with the second dose slated from October to December 2016, and the last dose April to June 2017.

The Philippines is among countries in the Western Pacific region with the highest incidence of dengue in recent years. As of April 2, 2016, there were 33,748 suspected cases reported nationwide, with most coming from Region IV-A (5,276 cases), Region III (4,384 cases), and Region VII (3,812 cases). –