Health Care

Anti-dengue vaccine in Philippines 'may worsen symptoms'

Anti-dengue vaccine in Philippines 'may worsen symptoms'

The Health department has suspended the administering of the vaccine.

The Philippines has vaccinated more than 733,000 children with Dengvaxia since 2016 when it became the first country to start using it on a mass scale.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has said his department would track the medical history of the thousands of children who were vaccinated and intensify its surveillance to ensure proper care would be given to anyone who may need it. Senators said over the weekend they would call for an investigation into the dengue immunisation programme to find out what actions the government needed take to protect those who may be exposed to the drug's negative effect.

On issues linking the vaccine to death, Lecciones said that so far, no confirmed death has been attributed to the dengue vaccination program in the country. Sanofi Pasteur stressed that the vaccine still protected against dengue fever when it was given to people who had prior dengue infections.

Khristine Estrada-Cabanayan, a Sanofi spokeswoman in the Philippines, said the company is working closely with the Department of Health and will release a statement to address concerns regarding the vaccine.

Despite the suspension, Duque said "vaccination is essential to the integrated approach in dengue prevention and control".

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For his part, Dr. Julius Lecciones, Philippine Children's Medical Center chief, said Brazil has chose to continue the vaccination to prove that they are looking at the beneficial side of the vaccine.

In Thailand, authorities have allowed the vaccine to be used in private hospitals on a case-by-case basis since September 2016, but it is not yet approved for state facilities, said Suchada Jiamsiri, deputy director of the health ministry's Division of Vaccine Preventable Disease.

The recipients - nine-year-old public school students in the three regions - were given three doses of the vaccine, six months apart.

On the two cases of death reported past year that were linked to Dengvaxia, he said there was no direct relation to the vaccine since it was revealed that one of the patients had a pre-existing heart condition that was complicated by diarrhea, while the other had Japanese encephalitis.

Jiamsiri said Thai health agencies had planned on consulting with WHO experts on the matter.

The Philippine government says there were more than 1,000 deaths caused by the disease previous year, out of around 211,000 suspected cases.