The Philippines stated on Friday that the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may be connected to three deaths in the country, according to a government-ordered inquiry, and that the drug is not ready for mass immunization.
Sanofi the drug maker revealed in November that Dengvaxia – the world’s first dengue vaccine – might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus. This news aroused an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated with the drug in 2016 alone.
Dengue comes from mosquitoes and is the world’s fastest-growing infectious disease, tormenting up to 100 million people worldwide, causing half a million life-threatening infections and killing about 20,000 people, mostly children, every year, Yahoo News reported.
Dengvaxia uses the yellow fever virus vaccine as its genetic backbone. To induce an immune response to dengue, certain yellow fever genes were swapped out for dengue genes.
The Philippine Health Ministry halted Dengvaxia immunizations in November after it formed a 10-member panel of experts to determine if the immunization by the drug was directly connected to the deaths of 14 children after they were given the vaccine.
The panel found it may have been connected to the deaths of three.
“Three cases were found to have a casual association. They died of dengue even though they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo told a news conference.
“These findings strengthen the decision of the Department of Health to stop the vaccine. It has failed in some children. Dengvaxia is not ready for mass vaccinations and we would need three to five more years to watch and monitor if there would be other adverse reactions from the vaccine.”
The panel recommended further studies as it was difficult to directly connect the three deaths to Dengvaxia, Juliet Sio-Aguilar, from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital said.