US expert cautious on proposed revival of Dengvaxia program in PH

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2019 11:28 PM | Updated as of Aug 02 2019 04:45 AM

A pharmacist shows the Devangxia vaccine. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News/file photo

MANILA—"No one is making any sense."

A leading authority on dengue research had this to say about the proposal of reviving the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine program amid the rising dengue cases in the country.

"If I were the government I would not let Sanofi back unless they made some significant contributions to lower the burden of dengue," said Dr. Scott Halstead, a US-based scientist.

"Special courses in diagnosis and management of dengue and provision of diagnostic equipment – sonographic equipment – would be a start," he added.

The dengue vaccination program was scrapped after French drug-maker Sanofi warned in late 2017 that Dengvaxia might increase the risk of severe dengue in recipients not previously infected by the mosquito-borne virus.

As early as Dec. 2016, Halstead warned the Philippine government about the use of Dengvaxia on children who had never contracted dengue, but he was ignored.

"Dengvaxia does protect (to some degree) those children specifically at risk to a severe dengue illness," he said.

"With adequate screening of each individual, the vaccine would help the Philippines lower the awful toll this virus takes on your children," Halstead added.

However, he cautioned that the vaccine should be given to children of any age "with a positive serological test for dengue."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permanently revoked the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia in February, about a year after Sanofi admitted that the drug can cause more severe symptoms among those who have not had dengue.

Dengvaxia is no longer available and cannot be used in the Philippines, but Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo had said the government should consider making Dengvaxia available if there are enough findings to support its efficacy and safety.

Records from the Department of Health (DOH) showed there are 115,986 dengue cases nationwide from Jan. 1 to July 6, about an 85 percent increase from the 57,564 reported during the same period last year.—With a report from Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News