Medical science had a significant milestone late in 2015 when the world's first-ever dengue vaccine was approved for human use. It took almost two decades of research to formulate Dengxavia, the dengue vaccine manufactured by French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pasteur.
When the vaccine was approved, the Philipines became the first country in Asia to use the vaccine. In 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) rolled out a government-sponsored vaccination program against dengue for public school students in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and CALABARZON, areas that recorded the highest number of cases.
Dengue is one of the major health issues in the country, with the virus affecting kids more than adults. Last year, there were over 200,000 dengue cases in the country, with around 1,000 cases resulting in death, reports PhilStar.com. Doctors could only manage the symptoms brought about by the illness, but there is still no cure. Now, the public has another option to get the vaccine, apart from getting it from private hospitals.
Watsons, an international health care and beauty care chain, will be the first retailer to conduct a vaccination program against dengue in 108 of their stores, reports Inquirer.net. Dengvaxia comes in three doses, given at six-month intervals and doctors will be present in select Watsons stores to administer the vaccine.
In an interview with SmartParenting.com.ph, Watsons health business director Danilo Chiong clarified that the vaccine is only available in the listed Watsons stores that will participate in the vaccination schedules. He explained the vaccine would be administered on site and only by their doctor on the set dates (see the list of stores and schedules at the bottom of this article) because the vaccines have "specific handling and cold chain storage requirements." In short, you cannot buy the vaccine, and take it your doctor.
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While the vaccine is already available in private hospitals, Watsons offers the vaccine at P4,000 per dose for a total of P12,000 for the complete cycle. Our research indicates Watsons rate per dose is lower than those sold in hospitals, but Chiong could not confirm, pointing out that the company "is not aware of how much doctors, hospitals, and clinics are charging for the vaccine."
"We are offering the best price possible for our customers," he says, adding that Watsons partnered with BDO so patients can use their credit card to pay by installment with no interest.
Dengvaxia can be administered to patients ages 9 to 45. Patients who have had dengue in the past can still get the vaccine, explains Dr. Rontgene Solante, a medical expert on infectious diseases, to Inquirer. However, the DOH advises that the vaccine is not for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and individial who have a weakend immune system or are sick at the time of the vaccination. It's also not recommended for invidiuals who are allergic to the ingredients, so you have to check with your family physician first beforehand.
Dr. Solante explains how the vaccine works when you've been bitten by a mosquito that carries dengue. "If you get bitten [by a mosquito], you won’t get the symptoms -- headache, fever, decrease in platelet count and abdominal pain. If you have a mild type of dengue, the fever will disappear in three or four days. The platelet count will not be too low. [The vaccine] can prevent severe dengue or thrombocytopenia, the lowest platelet count of under 50,000.” The vaccine could also lower the chance of transmission, or infect other people.
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The vaccine contains inactivated components of dengue virus. When it is administered to an individual, he can exhibit symptoms (as mentioned above) so the body can produce antibodies to protect you against it. According to the DOH, it's normal to experience these symptoms after getting the vaccine: headache, muscle pain, pain, redness, itching, or swelling at the injection site, feeling unwell and weak, and fever.
Based on the clinical trials Sanofi Pasteur conducted in several countries, including the Philipines, the vaccine helps reduce the risk of hospitalization by 80 percent, and lessens the possibility of developing a more severe form of the disease (internal bleeding for example) by 93 percent. According to a study by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health (UP-NIH), the vaccine is expected to reduce dengue cases in the country by over 24 percent in a span of five years.
Before the vaccine, there was no fool-proof way to prevent dengue. A previous infection can give a person immunity, but only from the same strain. However, being infected once by dengue ups the risk of developing dengue hemorrhagic fever when infected with a different strain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two-thirds of the 400 million people who are infected by dengue fever worldwide are in Asia. As of February 2017, the vaccine has been approved in 14 countries where dengue is endemic, including Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines.
The Philippines has the seventh highest number of dengue cases worldwide, says Dr. Solante. “This vaccine is important in places where dengue is highly endemic, like the Philippines... Prevention reflects the health of a community," he said.
Watsons's three-part series of dengue vaccinations will be on April 30 (first shot); October 29 (second); April 29, 2018 (third) for the first batch. The second batch is on May 14, (first shot); November 12 (second); and May 13, 2018 (third). For the list of participating Watsons stores, click here.