Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Manila probes Sanofi dengue vaccine

DENGVAXIA:A volunteer group said three children who were vaccinated last year had died, but the drugmaker said no deaths had been reported as a result of the vaccine

Reuters, MANILA

A worker yesterday shows used vials of Dengvaxia at a vaccine storage room in Santa Cruz City, Metro Manila, the Philippines.

Photo: Reuters

The Philippines yesterday ordered a probe into the immunization of more than 730,000 children with a vaccine for dengue that has been suspended following an announcement by French drug company Sanofi that it could worsen the disease in some cases.

A non-governmental organization in the Philippines said it had received information that three children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia in April last year had died, but Sanofi said no deaths had been reported as a result of the program, adding that it is working to resolve the fears.

“As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination,” Sanofi Pasteur Philippines medical director Ruby Dizon told a news conference in Manila.

Last week, the Philippine Department of Health halted the use of Dengvaxia after Sanofi said it must be strictly limited due to evidence it can worsen the disease in people not previously exposed to the infection.

In a statement issued in the Philippines, Sanofi explained the “new findings,” but said that the long-term safety evaluation of the vaccines showed significantly fewer hospitalizations due to dengue in vaccinated people over nine years old compared with those who had not been vaccinated.

Those stricken with dengue in a study all had fully recovered, Sanofi Pasteur global medical head Ng Su-Peing said yesterday.

Nearly 734,000 children aged nine and over in the Philippines have received one dose of the vaccine as part of a program that cost 3.5 billion pesos (US$69.54 million).

The Philippine Department of Justice yesterday ordered the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation to look into “the alleged danger to public health ... and if evidence so warrants, to file appropriate charges thereon.”

There was no indication that Philippine health officials knew of any risks when they administered the vaccination.

However, the WHO in a paper in July last year said that “vaccination may be ineffective or may theoretically even increase the future risk of hospitalized or severe dengue illness in those who are seronegative at the time of first vaccination regardless of age.”

Singaporean Health Sciences Authority last week said that it flagged risks when the vaccine was approved there in October last year and was working with Sanofi to strengthen risk warnings on the drug’s packaging.

According to Sanofi in Manila, 19 licenses were granted for Dengvaxia, and it was launched in 11 countries, only two of which — the Philippines and Brazil — had public programs to administer the vaccine.

A spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the government would hold to account those responsible for a program that had placed thousands of lives at risk.

“We will leave no stone unturned in making those responsible for this shameless public health scam, which puts hundreds of thousands of young lives at risk, accountable,” spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

There had been no reported case of “severe dengue infection” since the vaccine was administered, Roque said, calling on the public “not to spread information that may cause undue alarm.”

However, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said it was checking a report that three children on the northern island of Luzon had died since being vaccinated in April last year and described the situation as a disaster.

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