Govt urged to review use of Dengvaxia

AN infectious disease expert called on the government to re-evaluate the use of Dengvaxia vaccine amid the sharp rise of dengue cases in the country.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported that cases jumped to 64,797, higher by 90 percent compared to the same period last year.

The staggering number prompted Dr. Rontgene Solante to urge the government to re-evaluate the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine, considered as the world’s first dengue vaccine.

Cumulatively, most of the dengue cases or 15 percent were reported in Central Luzon with 9,426 cases, followed by Central Visayas with 7,741 (12 percent) and Zamboanga Peninsula with 5,684 cases (9 percent).

From May 29 to June 25 alone, there were 21,115 dengue cases recorded throughout the country.

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Of this number, 18 percent were logged in Central Luzon at 3,902, followed by Central Visayas with 2,316 cases (11 percent), and the National Capital Region with 1,997 cases (9 percent).

Data released by the DoH showed that 274 people died of dengue this year, equivalent to a 0.4 percent case fatality rate.

Of the 274 deaths, 36 occurred in January, 32 in February, 39 in March, 46 in April, 63 in May, and 58 in June.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the rise in dengue cases is alarming as some individuals are now being admitted in hospitals.

“That’s why I think it’s high time that the government should consider having Dengvaxia. They should review the data, they should review the benefit of this vaccine,” Solante said in a public briefing.

He noted that Dengvaxia is being used in some Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Only the Philippines banned the use of the vaccine.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration stopped the sale, distribution and marketing of Dengvaxia vaccine and the withdrawal of the product in the market after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur announced in November 2017 that the vaccine may lead to “more severe” symptoms for those who have never been infected by dengue prior to vaccination.

The dengue immunization program was also suspended shortly, but an estimated 800,000 schoolchildren have been immunized.

Solante said the government should now reconsider re-assessing the use of Dengvaxia which has been proven to prevent severe cases of dengue and hospitalization.

“If in case the government should consider having Dengvaxia, they should review the data, they should review the benefit of this vaccine which is prevention of hospitalization and prevention of severe dengue,” he said.

“If we can use it, then there should be guidelines on when we can use it and which of the population we can (use) it on,” he added.

Solante clarified that the vaccine has been known to cause severe dengue among those who have not been previously infected and is only recommended as immunization to those who have already been infected.

The DoH reminded the public to practice the 4S behavior for the fight against dengue: Search and destroy breeding places; Secure self-protection; Seek early consultation; and Support fogging or spraying in hotspot areas, especially now during the rainy season.