THE Department of Health (DOH) has expressed optimism over the potential effect of the mass dengue vaccination that they are set to launch on Monday, April 4, in Metro Manila and two other regions in the Philippines.

DOH Secretary Janette Garin said they are prepared to conduct the mass dengue vaccination to nine-year-old students in public schools in Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and National Capital Region (NCR).

“A nationwide routine vaccination of nine-year olds starting in 2016 will lead to an estimated 24.2 percent reduction in dengue cases over a five-year time horizon,” Garin said.

She said this is in accordance with their desire to save more lives and reduce the threat of dengue to the public.

“Immunization is one good program that actually saves lives. What we only want is a program that is beneficial to our children,” said Garin.

The agency advised school teachers to remind their students to eat before vaccination to avoid possible fainting.

The DOH said the common side effects of the vaccine would be rashes, pain and swelling on injection site, fever, and headache.

The vaccine will be given in three doses at six months interval, said the DOH.

From January 1 to February 20, the DOH has already recorded a total of 18,790 dengue cases nationwide.

Most of the cases were from Calabarzon with 3,182 cases (16.9 percent), Central Luzon with 2,596 cases (13.8 percent), and NCR with 1,479 cases (7.9 percent).

Garin said the government is not locked to use the Dengvaxia of Sanofi Pasteur, which is the first dengue vaccine in the world, in its current and future immunization program.

“If in four years or five years time, there will be additional vaccines, that will be a good addition and a good competition to the market,” said Garin.

She said the DOH is not interested in fanning the looming war between pharmaceutical companies that are planning to develop dengue vaccines.

“The DOH is a government institution. We don’t want to be locked in a quarrel among the industry. It is a natural occurrence to have competition among them whenever a new vaccine is under development. We have decided and it is our obligation to shy away from industry-to-industry quarrel,” Garin said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately five additional dengue vaccine candidates that are already in clinical development with those of Instituto Butantan (Brazil) and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company (Japan) already expected to begin the Phase III trials in early 2016. (HDT/Sunnex)