By Pratch Rujivanarom
The move was hailed as a big step toward controlling the potentially fatal disease.
The Philippine Health Department said one million nine-year-olds in 6,000 public schools in areas deemed at-risk would be the first group get injections with Dengvaxia, which could prevent up to 93 per cent of severe dengue cases among those immunised.
“No vaccine can 100 per cent prevent the infection. However, this dengue vaccine is very effective. It can boost dengue immunity for two years and after that, until five years, the immunity level will be still high enough to prevent the infection." The vaccine can prevent eight out of 10 people, who immunised, from infected with dengue, she said.
Vincent Belizario, the Philippines’ under-secretary of health, said there was a small chance that vaccinated children could suffer a low fever and headaches as side-effects.
However, the Health Department’s press release said it had established a strict monitoring and surveillance system for adverse reactions.
The vaccine was also licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, so it was safe for public consumption, it said.
Ten fourth graders received the vaccine during the “Dengue School-Based Immunisation” opening ceremony. The vaccines will be given to the rest of the targeted students by June.
Capeding said that to complete the regime, students would have to receive three doses of the vaccine. The second dose will be given from October to December and the last dose from April to June next year.
Vaccination a health ‘milestone’
Health Secretary Janette Garin said at the ceremony that the programme was a milestone for the Philippines’ public health drive. It showed the country was shifting from a curative to a preventive approach to fight infectious diseases.
“We are the first country to introduce, adopt and implement the first-ever dengue vaccine through the public health system and under public school settings.
“With this breakthrough, we can now expand our immunisation services to address diseases that are of public health importance,” she said.
“Our country invests much in healthcare to develop and distribute vaccines, not only for dengue but other infectious diseases, as we placed the preventive approach on the national agenda.
“This is because we know that a healthy population is the key to success in other aspects of development,” she said.
Soon everyone in the Philippines will gain access to the vaccine from hospitals near their home, she said.
Dengvaxia was developed by Sanofi Pasteur. It has already been registered in four countries – the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador. The regulatory review process for the vaccine is continuing in many countries where people get dengue including Thailand.
Sanofi Pasteur said its production site in France has the capacity to make up to 100 million doses annually, so the supply would be sufficient for the world market, when other countries start dengue vaccination schemes.