By Betheena Kae Unite
The World Health Organization (WHO) clarified that it did not recommend to countries, including the Philippines, the use of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia in their immunization programs.
“The WHO position paper (published in July, 2016) did not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs,” WHO said in a position paper issued on Dec. 5, 2017.
“Rather, WHO outlined a series of considerations national governments should take into account in deciding whether to introduce the vaccine, based on a review of available data at the time, along with possible risks,” it added.
The WHO clarification belies the statement issued by former Health Secretary Janette Garin that the vaccine was recommended by local and global experts, including the WHO.
“The dengue vaccine program was implemented by DOH [Department of Health] in line with WHO guidelines and recommendations from both local and global experts. Dengue, affecting 90 to 93 percent of the population in the recommended and targeted areas, was addressed as our government obligation to respond,”Garin said in a statement issued last Dec. 3.
Garin’s statement was issued a day after French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, manufacturer of Dengvaxia, disclosed that the vaccine was found to potentially cause more severe case of dengue for those who have not experience dengue.
In April, 2016, Garin launched the school-based dengue vaccination program in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon). Since then, over 700,000 children have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia vaccine.
Vaccination suspension backed
Following the revelation of Sanofi Pasteur, Health Secretary Francisco Duque suspended the dengue vaccination program, a move WHOfully supports.
“Like many others in the Philippines, WHO is awaiting the expert analysis of new data and advice about its implications for use of the vaccine,” it stated.
WHO also stated that it is waiting for the advice of its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization which will meet to review the new evidence next week.
“And as always, we stand ready to work with the DOH to provide information to affected families, and to support the DOH’s deliberations on the future of the dengue vaccination program,” WHO said.
It also advised the public, vaccinated or not, with signs of dengue disease – high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and/or rash – to seek medical care.
In its position paper published in July, 2016, WHO, based on recommendations of the Strategic Group of Experts on Immunization which met and published preliminary advice in mid-April 2016, outlined considerations, not a recommendation, to countries on the use of the dengue vaccine.
These included the following: first, use of the vaccine should only be considered in areas where a high proportion (preferably at least 70 percent) of the community had already been exposed to the virus; second, the vaccine should only be provided to people nine years of age and above; and third, people being vaccinated should receive three doses.
WHO acknowledged mid-April, 2016 that these conditions appeared to be met in the three regions in the Philippines where the dengue vaccination program was already underway at that time – noting that the decision to roll out the vaccine had been taken by the DOH before WHO’s advice became available.