The Philippines is the first Asian country to give the new dengue vaccine a go-signal two weeks after Mexico, the first country in the world, approved it for public use. The vaccine called Dengvaxia, by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, is recommended for patients aged nine to 45, and effectively reduces hospitalization rate by 80% and severe internal bleeding by 93%.
The Department of Health (DOH) records show that as of October 2015, around 108,000 dengue cases were reported throughout the country. Many applauded the quick actions the DOH took to have the potentially life-saving vaccine available to Filipinos as soon as possible.
That time is near -- actually, next week, to be precise.
DOH secretary Janet Garin announced that Dengvaxia, the world's first and only approved immunization defense against four strains of dengue, will be available in the Philippine market next week. The government has already included P3 billion allocation for the vaccine in the already-approved 2016 budget.
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“The fact that the three phases of the clinical trial have been concluded in the Philippines is a reflection of the efficiency and capability of Filipino researchers. This shows that the world recognizes Philippine expertise in the area of research,” Garin explained in an interview. For over 20 years, Sanofi Pasteur has been conducting clinical trials in Latin America and Southeast Asia to test the effectiveness of the vaccine. The studies conducted in the Philippines were participated in by 3,500 children aged two to 14 from Cebu City and Laguna.
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While the dengue vaccine is expensive as it's the only one of its kind to date, according to Garin, the Philippines received "an additional 34% discount" after President Benigno Aquino III met with the pharmaceutical company's executives during his visit to France last month. That's on top of the discount the Department of Finance and Sanofi Pasteur have agreed upon during the APEC Summit last November.
Garin also announced that the Dengvaxia vaccine will be given for free to a total of 1,077,623 Grade 4 and Grade 5 students, or kids nine to 10 years old in the National Capital Region, Region III, and Region IV-A, the three areas that have the most number of dengue cases in the country. “We are fortunate to be in this era wherein infectious diseases can now be prevented by vaccination. Sa katas ng sin tax, tuloy tuloy ang kalusugan,” she said.
Dengue affects more children than adults, with kids one to nine years old as the most vulnerable victims because of their predilection to mosquito bites. Before the vaccine, the only way to get immunity from dengue is to get infected and risk hemorrhagic fever on the succeeding infections. With the new vaccine and an annual nationwide vaccination program, the DOH expects dengue cases to drop 24% in a span of five years.
Sources: January 5, 2015. “1.07 million students to get dengue vaccine – DOH” (rappler.com) January 5, 2015. "1.07 million Grade 4 students nationwide to get anti-dengue vaccines" (interaksyon.com) January 4, 2015. Dengue vaccine available in PHL market next week (gmanetwork.com)