MANILA - (UPDATED) Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi on Monday said there have been no reported deaths in the Philippines related to the P3.4 billion dengue vaccination program that has been suspended by the government.
"As far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination," Dr. Ruby Dizon, a medical director at the French firm, told reporters.
"This is assessed by an independent expert group which is convened by the DOH (Department of Health), which is called the National Adverse Event Following Immunization Committee."
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption has claimed 3 children in Central Luzon have allegedly died after receiving Sanofi's world-first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia.
Last week, Sanofi disclosed that Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.
Some 733,000 children have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia since 2016, when the Philippines became the first country to start using it on a mass scale. The DOH has suspended the public vaccination program following Sanofi's announcement.
Trial tests show that those who received Dengvaxia with no prior history of dengue faced "increased risk of hospitalization for dengue and severe dengue," Sanofi general manager Ching Santos said during the press conference.
The increase risk includes "5 dengue hospitalizations or 2 clinically severe dengue episodes per 1,000 vaccinees," a Sanofi presentation showed.
On the other hand, individuals previously infected with dengue have experienced "clear and sustained" protection from the disease for up to 6 years after their first dose of the vaccine, she said.
Nine out of 10 Filipino are exposed to dengue by the time they reach adolescence but three-fourths do not experience symptoms, said Joselito Sta. Ana, Sanofi Pasteur regional director.
Sanofi classifies fever for 2 days, lower platelet count and bruising among the symptoms of severe dengue, said Dr. Joselito Sta. Ana, the firm's regional director.
The firm's standards differ from that of the World Health Organization (WHO), where severe dengue is characterized by bleeding and organ failure, noted Dr. Ng Su Peing, global medical head of Sanofi.
All participants who acquired severe dengue during Sanofi trial tests, whether vaccinated or not, have fully recovered, added Santos.
Sanofi, she said, is ready to cooperate with any investigation into their vaccine.