Philippines may re-introduce controversial dengue vaccine

The Philippines is considering re-introducing a dengue vaccine whose use was ceased because of links to several deaths.

As reported in Reuters, as authorities battle to contain a dengue outbreak that has killed more than 450 people this year, the Philippines is considering re-introducing a dengue vaccine whose use it halted because of links to the deaths of several children.

Concerns over the dengue immunisation for nearly 734,000 children aged nine or older sparked two congressional inquiries, a criminal investigation and a sharp fall in the number of parents seeking routine vaccinations for their children, the report continued.

If the government decided to revive the use of the vaccine (Dengvaxia), it would be administered with “utmost caution”, according to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. “If Dengvaxia is proven effective to those who already had dengue in the past, then its application to these individuals will surely cause the decline of the overall number of cases.”

Dengvaxia use was ceased in late 2017, when the Philippines ordered the drug’s manufacturer to stop selling, distributing and marketing when it was warned that the vaccine could worsen the disease in some cases.

In March, the Department of Justice said it had found probable cause to indict the manufacturer, and former and current Philippine health officials, over 10 deaths it said were linked to the use of Dengvaxia, which the manufactuer has repeatedly said is safe and effective.

Panelo continued that the government would follow a protocol set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for all individuals to be screened before receiving the vaccine, to determine if they have ever been exposed to the infection. Any decision to start administering the vaccine again would not affect cases against individuals involved in the controversy, he added.