The Philippines began rolling out the world’s first mass dengue vaccine named “Dengvaxia” last Monday, April 4. About seven hundred children, ages 9-10 at a public school in Marikina were the first to receive the dengue vaccine.
Dengue or Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease transmitted by certain species of mosquito of the Aedes type, most prominently Aedes Aegypti. Symptoms usually begin three days after the infection and include high fever, vomiting, skin rash, and muscle or joint pain.
The Philippines is one of the countries with the highest cases of dengue fever with 200,000 last year resulting to 600 deaths. About 20,000 cases had been reported this year until February 20.
“We are the first country to introduce, adopt and implement the first-ever dengue vaccine through the public health system and under public school settings,” said Philippine Health Secretary Janette Garin.
Developed by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, Dengvaxia was approved last December 2015 in the Philippines and was launched for use in individuals aged 9 to 45. It is estimated that it will cost about 18,000 pesos to treat each dengue patient and the Philippine government will spend3.5 billion pesos ($76 million) to administer the free vaccines.
A clinical test performed by the New England Journal of Medicine states that the vaccine reduces the risk of contracting dengue by 65.6 percent, thus preventing hospitalizations by 80 percent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was in full support for the use of Dengvaxia in the Philippines. “It is the prerogative of a country to license the product (and) determine its use based on the internal scientific appraisal of the clinical research that is underpinning the product,” WHO country representative Gundo Weller said.
Health Undersecretary Vicente Belizario told the press that only 27 were reported to develop side effects, proving it was an effective vaccine in contrast to the safety concerns raised by several public health advocates.