Dengue Vaccine in the Philippines: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

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According to a latest statement by Sanofi, the vaccine puts those with no prior dengue infection at risk of developing a severe disease in the future

In the first half of 2017, the Department of Health has reported 43,770 of dengue cases, 37% lower than the same period last year, when a total of 69,297 cases were reported. Though the nationwide immunization program intended to fight the endemic disease seems to be working, it seems that it also poses certain dangers.

Pharmaceutical company Sanofi, who formulated the world's first Dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, recently released updated information cautioning parents and health practitioners against the risks of the vaccine.

Here's what you need to know.

In 2015, the company announced the creation of the first dengue vaccine. In February 2016, it arrived in the Philippines, making the country the first in Asia to make the vaccine available. The Department of Health allotted a P3.5 billion budget to fund the immunization program, despite criticism that the vaccine had yet to be approved by the World Health Organization. It was later approved by WHO in April 2016.

Now a little over a year later, the same company that created and distributed the much awaited vaccine have issued updated information, stating that the vaccine may put those with no prior dengue infection at risk of developing a 'severe disease' in the future. These findings were based on data gathered over 6 years by the said pharmaceutical research and development giant.

"For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection," reads the statement, which can be found on their website.

"For individuals who have not been previously infected by dengue virus, vaccination should not be recommended..."

dengue fever

photo: dreamstime

"Surveillance data from some endemic countries indicate that between 70 and 90 percent of people will have been exposed to dengue at least once by the time they reach adolescence. There are many factors that can lead to severe dengue infection," continues the statement. "However, the highest risk of getting more severe disease has been observed in people infected for the second time by a different dengue virus."

"Vaccination should only be recommended when the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks (in countries with high burden of dengue disease)," the statement reads. "For individuals who have not been previously infected by dengue virus, vaccination should not be recommended," clarified the statement, which counters previously recommended guidelines, which state that those aged 9 or 12 to 45 could be given the vaccine, regardless of history of infection.

Back in April 2016, the Department of Health denied that the dengue vaccine caused the death of an 11-year-old boy, saying that it was due to a pre-existing heart condition that was further complicated by pneumonia.

However, they did admit to recording about 362 cases of adverse reactions to the vaccine.

The Dengue vaccine has the following side effects:  fever, headache, dizziness, vomiting, and rash.

As of this writing, Sanofi's statement has caught the local government's attention; efforts are currently underway to further investigate the risks of the vaccine nationwide.

Be sure to speak to your child' pediatrician regarding any apprehensions you might have to ensure that your child gets the right protection against dengue, and that they are not put at risk of developing a more severe infection in the future.

sources: Sanofi.com, CNN.com, TIME.com, DOH

READ: What you need to know about dengue

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