WHO director urges use of dengvaxia vaccine against dengue fever

With the alarming rise in dengue cases in the region, the vaccine may be the best solution against prevention though it has its own risk factors

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It is now 2019, and countries have yet to determine a lasting preventive solution for dengue fever. Just in Singapore alone, more than 2,000 people have caught dengue fever since January this year. This is already more than thrice the number of cases compared to the first quarter of 2018 which had only 600 cases.

Tropical countries in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region are also prone to dengue. Dengue remains endemic in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and even Hong Kong.

As such, the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to consider implementing the dengvaxia vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for Western Asia, said that “Dengue is not like in the past when you had a few cases then contained it. It is no longer that kind of disease. Dengue is now with us. It’s like seasonal influenza.”

Dr. Kasai made the announcement during a meeting with Hong Kong health officials regarding the alarming rise in dengue cases in the country, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the dengvaxia vaccine which aims to prevent the disease in children aged between nine and 16. The vaccine reportedly targets all strains of the tropical virus.

Dengvaxia is developed by Sanofi Pasteur, one the world’s largest multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Health experts warn that the vaccine should only be given to children “who have laboratory-confirmed previous dengue infections and who live in endemic areas.” Before they administer the vaccine, doctors and medical centres must be certain that the patient has had a previous dengue infection.

Sanofi discovered that “individuals who have never had a dengue infection before pose a significantly higher risk of a more severe form of the disease and hospitalisations with Dengvaxia than if they had not been vaccinated against dengue at all.”

The vaccine caused a panic and healthcare controversy in the Philippines where school children who were wrongly inoculated allegedly got infected with a strong strain of the virus while a number of children had died. The country has since banned the drug amidst ongoing investigations.

Dengvaxia is approved in 19 countries including Singapore. People interested in getting the vaccine should be aware that it is administered in three parts with six months between  doses./TISG

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