Philippines halts sale of Sanofi dengue vaccine

SAFETY NETS — Mosquito nets are installed in a classroom at the Pantal Elementary School in Dagupan City to protect pupils from mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus amid the controversy sparked by the suspension of the anti-dengue vaccination program

WHO denies recommending Dengvaxia for nat'l immunization programs

Over 733,000 students from public schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon, nine years old and above, have received at least the first of three doses of the vaccine.

Ching Santos, general manager of Sanofi Pasteur in the Philippines, said the company has begun sharing the new data with all stakeholders, including private health care professionals, and will cooperate with Philippine health authorities in an ongoing review of the public vaccination programme.

However, Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo told Reuters the three referred to by the NGO died due to causes not related to the vaccine and Sanofi said no deaths had been reported as a result of the program.

There was no indication that Philippines health officials knew of any risks when they administered the vaccination.

The vaccine, given to anyone who had not already been infected, left people vulnerable to severe, life-threatening dengue in the event they were subsequently infected by wild type dengue.

French-based Sanofi Pasteur said its long-term follow-up study of its Dengvaxia vaccine showed sustained benefits for up to six years for those who had previous dengue infection, but that people who never had dengue had an increased risk of a severe case and hospitalisation from the third year after immunisation.

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The WHO suggested the vaccine be used only among people who have had dengue infection before.

Anvisa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa, in an emailed statement to Reuters, said it had not received any reports of vaccine recipients dying or falling more severely ill because of the drug.

A spokesman for Sanofi in Paris was not immediately available for comment.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that he would tap the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to initiate a fact-finding investigation to determine possible accountabilities of officials behind the purchase that was approved by former health chief Janette Garin. "We implemented it in accordance with World Health Organization guidance and recommendations". Although it is not as serious as malaria, it is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world, killing about 20,000 people a year and infecting hundreds of millions.

"Like many others in the Philippines, WHO is awaiting the expert analysis of new data and advice about its implications for use of the vaccine", the WHO said in a statement on its website.

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