Patient groups call for return of Dengvaxia

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 20 2019 07:13 PM

MANILA -- An alliance of patient groups has called on the government to reintroduce the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia as cases of the mosquito-borne disease continue to rise.

In a statement released Tuesday, Philippine Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (PAPO) President Girlie Lorenzo said patients should be allowed to choose to get inoculated.

"A vaccine that would benefit a hyperendemic population like our own exists. With an internationally-approved vaccine, patients in the Philippines should be allowed the choice of getting immunized," said Lorenzo.

Lorenzo added that some patients have chosen to go abroad to access dengue vaccines.

In a manifesto, PAPO also called for "proper information from experts to be able to make informed decisions."

"We hope patients and their families will have access to medicines, including dengue vaccines," PAPO said in its manifesto.

The organization added that the dengue and Dengvaxia issues should not be politicized "because majority of those who are dying (from dengue) are children."

PAPO is an umbrella organization of at least 32 illness-specific patient groups.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 3, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 188,562 dengue cases. This is double compared to the 93,149 cases recorded during the same period in 2018.

The DOH also recorded 807 deaths due to dengue from Jan. 1 to Aug. 3.

Aside from patient groups, a group of Filipino doctors earlier urged the DOH to lift the ban on Dengvaxia.

The vaccine was used in a mass immunization program for public school students. 

The government suspended the program in December 2017, a month after Dengvaxia maker, Sanofi Pasteur, admitted that the drug may cause severe symptoms among people who have not had dengue.

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.

The Food and Drug Administration already revoked Dengvaxia's certificate of product registration.

The DOH earlier this month declared a national dengue epidemic.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has said that the government is studying an appeal to allow Sanofi Pasteur to put Dengvaxia back in the Philippine market. 

President Rodrigo Duterte also said he was open to making Dengvaxia available again in the country to address the epidemic.