Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
When pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur launched Dengvaxia as a vaccine against Dengue, the mosquito-borne viral disease that infects an average of 390 million people worldwide annually, the Philippines was among the first countries in the world to approve its use in December 2015.
The Department of Health under former health secretary Janette Garin relied on World Health Organization guidelines and the clearance of the country's Food and Drug Administration to procure P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia. More than 733,000 Filipino children, nine years old and above, have been vaccinated by the DOH in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.
However, and advisory from French-based Sanofi Pasteur says new clinical analysis has found the vaccine is effective for people who have had dengue prior to immunization but citing a risk of a “severe” case of dengue for those who have not. This development puts around 10 percent or approximately 70,000 of the Filipino school children who received the shots at risk.
The DOH secretary Francisco Duque has suspended the dengue vaccination program pending the recommendation of the WHO. The Department of Justice and Congress have set investigations into this mess and those who are found accountable will have to pay the price of a well-intentioned program gone awry because of undue haste.
Dengvaxia is not a total failure. According to its manufacturer, “It provides persistent protective benefits against dengue in those who has prior infection.” If the estimates of the DOH and the manufacturer are accurate, extending those benefits to 90 percent of the vaccinated children is no mean feat. The DOH, the Department of Education, and the manufacturer must now embark on a determined and comprehensive effort to validate those estimates based on previous medical records and other medical tests so the school children at risk of complications can be properly identified, monitored, and comprehensively protected from the potential consequences of this program.*