DOH won't rush vaccine review despite dengue epidemic

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2019 11:19 AM | Updated as of Aug 07 2019 07:23 PM

Medical staff care for patients diagnosed with dengue as the lie on beds setup at General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital’s chapel in Trece Martires, Cavite on July 26, 2019. The sheer number of patients in the province threatens to overwhelm some hospitals with some of them putting beds in hallways to accommodate the afflicted. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Department of Health will not speed up its review of the possible return of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, a official said Wednesday, after authorities declared a national epidemic of the mosquito-borne disease.

The government in late 2017 stopped giving the world-first vaccine to schoolchildren after drug maker Sanofi disclosed that it may 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.

"Kailangan natin ng complete documentation saka final result ng mga study para masuri natin talaga bago natin gamitin ulit. Hindi po siya minamadali," said DOH Undersecretary and Spokesperson Eric Domingo.

"We should not connect this to the current dengue outbreak dahil hindi naman po s'ya magiging sagot sa outbreak na ito," he added.

(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 to it.)

Majority of the current dengue patients are aged 5 to 9, while Dengvaxia is marketed in other countries for children aged 10 to 16, noted Domingo.

The vaccine, he added, can only be given to those who have had dengue and only targets 1 of 4 strains of the disease.

Sanofi is supposed to release its 60-month follow-up study on Dengvaxia's efficacy soon, he said.

Authorities disagree publicly over whether Dengvaxia, the first of its kind, could have contributed to the deaths of several children.

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

As of July 20 this year, the DOH recorded 146,062 cases of dengue, with 622 deaths. The figure is double from the 73,818 cases recorded during the same period last year.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin last week urged the government to lift the ban on Dengvaxia and allow private doctors to distribute it.