UPDATED - The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, December 1, suspended its P3-billion dengue vaccination program in light of new analysis that the vaccine, Dengvaxia, poses greater risk of severe dengue fever to those who have not been previously infected with the virus.
In a press conference, Health Secretary Francisco Duque asked the public not to panic, saying they were intensifying monitoring and surveillance of the children, aged 9 and above, who have received the vaccine.
"Yung severe disease, ay hindi naman mangangahulugan (na) lahat mangyayari yan. Ngunit aantayin pa rin natin ang pinakahuling ulat o update mula sa Sanofi at WHO (Not everybody will get infected with severe dengue. But we shall wait for the final update from Sanofi and WHO)," Duque said.
Dengvaxia, also referred to as CYD-TDV, is the first licensed dengue vaccine that was developed by Sanofi Pasteur.
A total of 733,713 children from Central Luzon, Calabarzon and National Capital Region received Dengvaxia as of November 2017. Duque said they still have to determine how many of the total have not been exposed to the virus prior to vaccination.
Duque also said they were coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO), which is reviewing the efficacy and safety of Dengvaxia through the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization.
He said SAGE is scheduled to meet on December 12 or 13.
Dengvaxia is given to persons aged 9 to 45 as a three-dose series on a 0/6/12 month schedule.
The vaccine has also been introduced in Brazil. Together with the Philippines, the target was to administer it to about one million individuals.
In an advisory released on Thursday, November 30, WHO recommended that Dengvaxia be administered only to seropositive subjects, or those who are known to have been infected with dengue pending the full review of its safety.
The organization said recent analysis conducted by Sanofi Pasteur showed that seronegative subjects, or persons who had not been exposed to the dengue virus, "had a higher risk of more severe dengue and hospitalizations due to dengue compared to unvaccinated participants, regardless of age."
"This increased risk was observed after an initial protective period and persisted over the observation period of up to 66 months post primary vaccination," the WHO said.
On the other hand, the vaccine significantly protects from severe dengue those who have been infected with dengue prior to immunization
In a meeting Friday morning with the DOH executive committee, Duque said they were informed that Dengvaxia provides a 30-month protective period after the first dose to both seronegative and seropositive subjects.
Duque said he has directed the department's legal services group to review the contracts on the implementation of the dengue vaccination program.
He said DOH will provide regular updates through its regional offices, which will coordinate with the health providers, rural health units and government and private hospitals (SunStar Philippines)