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DOH open to reviewing Dengvaxia data anew as dengue cases rise

Amid the continuing increase of dengue cases in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday it is open to studying again the possible evidence presented by dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in protecting the people against the virus.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the remark after infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said Monday that it is “high time” for the government to review the data and the benefits brought by Dengvaxia.

Vergeire recalled that the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia was revoked in 2018 following the announcement of Sanofi Pasteur that the vaccine may lead to “more severe” symptoms for those who have never been infected by dengue prior to vaccination.

“For us to be able to bring back this kind of vaccine, kailangan completed na ang evidence natin. Marami tayong proseso at pag-aaral na kailangang isagawa para magawa natin lahat ng ito,” she said during a DOH briefing.

(Our evidence must be completed first before we can bring back this kind of vaccine. We have to undergo many processes and studies for us to do all this.)

“Ang ating gobyerno, kasama ang Kagawaran ng Kalusugan, always open naman tayo sa bagong teknolohiya lalong-lalo na kung maipapakita ng ebidensya that it can really protect our population. Kailangan lamang po na mapag-aralang mabuti ulit, masusi ang pag-aaral, makakuha ng mga inputs coming from our experts, and itong manufacturer ay maging compliant sa regulasyon natin dito sa ating bansa,” she continued.

(Our government, along with the DOH, is always open to new technology especially if the evidence shows that it can really protect our population. We just need to study it thoroughly again, get inputs from our experts, and have the manufacturer be compliant with our regulations here in the country.)

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration in December 2017 ordered the suspension of the sale, distribution, and marketing of Dengvaxia vaccine and the withdrawal of the product in the market after the Sanofi disclosure.

The dengue vaccination program started during the term of then-Health Secretary Janette Garin in April 2016. It was then put on hold when health concerns on the vaccine were raised.

Around 800,000 schoolchildren aged 9 and above were, however, able to receive the said vaccine.

The DOH reported on Monday that the country recorded 64,797 dengue cases from January 1 to June 25, 2022, a 90% increase compared to the cases reported during the same period last year.

At least 274 people have also died in the country this year due to dengue, posing a 0.4% case fatality rate.

The DOH noted that 15 out of the country’s 17 regions have already surpassed the alert and epidemic threshold for dengue for the past four weeks or on May 29 to June 25, 2022.

The agency said that Ilocos Region “has yet to reach the said threshold,” while the Caraga Region “has previously passed the threshold back in April, 2022 but was not sustained and has [gone] back below the threshold.”

“Kapag lumalagpas ang area dito sa epidemic threshold, ibig sabihin, ‘yung number of cases sa isang lugar is more than what has been expected because we compare our trends or our number of cases from the previous years’ cases at that same time period,” Vegeire said.

(When an area exceeds the epidemic threshold, it means that its number of dengue cases is more than what has been expected.)

She said the recent dengue cases mostly affected the 15 and below age group.

She also reiterated that the dengue situation in the country is already “worrisome” because the dengue cases are rising in most regions, on top of the also increasing COVID-19 infections in the country.

While there is no dengue vaccine available in the country, Vergeire asked the public to focus on other preventive measures against dengue such as following the 4S behaviors: Search and destroy breeding places; Secure self-protection; Seek early consultation; and Support fogging or spraying in hotspot areas, especially during the rainy season.—AOL/RSJ, GMA News