19 out of 154 kids died of dengue despite Dengvaxia shot – DOH

Sofia Tomacruz
19 out of 154 kids died of dengue despite Dengvaxia shot – DOH
But DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo says several tests and studies still need to be done in the next few years to confirm if Dengvaxia itself influenced the deaths

ILOCUS SUR, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) said latest data showed that 19 out of 154 children who died after receiving at least one dose of Dengvaxia, had dengue despite the vaccination.

DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said of the 19 individuals who had dengue, 6 were diagnosed clinically and 13 were confirmed to have the illness through laboratory tests. He gave the figures, which were as of September 14, to reporters during a forum of health journalists.

“Of those deaths, 19 were definitely due to dengue…. Meaning they were vaccinated with Dengvaxia and somehow the vaccine failed or caused severe effects,” he said on Wednesday, September 26.

But Domingo clarified there was still no solid evidence on whether or not the Dengvaxia vaccine itself directly caused the deaths. The vaccine, he said, may only be “possibly related” and further studies over the next few years will be needed to establish it.

The latest figure is an increase in both the number of deaths and children who were confirmed to have dengue and died despite receiving the vaccine. In May 2018, Domingo said 11 out of 87 kids died of dengue despite Dengvaxia shot.

Meanwhile, the other 135 deaths were from non-dengue cases. Domingo said this means that those who died suffered from other illnesses including heart disease, pneumonia, central nervous system infections, leukemia, or asthma, among others, which occurred naturally.

Expert panel’s findings: Part of these 154 deaths are “the first 62 deaths” examined by University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital Dengue Investigative Task Force (PGH-DITF). The PGH-DITF was formed in January 2018 to review the deaths of children who received the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.

Domingo said only the first 62 deaths were reviewed so far as these were continuously sent to the PGH-DITF chronologically.

Of the 62 deaths the task force investigated, 1 was “consistent with causal association to immunization,” which means patient’s death occurred within 30 days and thus may be possibly related to the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Meanwhile 8 deaths were considered “indeterminate” since these had a “consistent temporal relationship with Dengvaxia,” though there was insufficient evidence to determine if this was actually related to the vaccine.

There were also 6 deaths that had some factors “consistent with causal association to immunization” but were likewise considered “indeterminate” for lack of evidence to establish a possible relationship to the vaccine.

These 14 deaths occurred within 6 months of immunization, Domingo said, which means there may still be a “temporal relationship” with the vaccine. Further students were likewise needed to establish a direct relationship with Dengvaxia.

But these 15 deaths in total were of note for the DOH.

“For these 15, may possibility talaga na may relationship sa bakuna kasi yung time frame happened within 6 months and majority of them died because of dengue,” Domingo said. The exact number of patients who had dengue among these deaths was not available as of posting.

(For these 15, there is a possibility it is related to the vaccine the time frame (of death) happened within 6 months and majority of them died because of dengue.)

DENGUE VACCINE. A health worker shows off vials of Dengvaxia vaccine administered to students during the school-based immunization in Manila on December 4, 2017. File Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Of the remaining deaths, Domingo said 37 were “coincidental” meaning the patients got sick from other diseases and also happened to receive the vaccine. There were also 8 deaths that were “unclassifiable” as there was not enough information on the patient to make any sort of judgement on the death.

The remaining 2 deaths where patients had no available records for examination.

This is the second batch of findings from the PGH-DITF. Earlier in February, the task force reported 3 out of 14 cases they studied showed the children also died of dengue despite getting at least one shot of the risky dengue vaccine. (READ: No need to panic over Dengvaxia-linked deaths – Duque, UP-PGH experts

What’s the DOH doing about it? Domingo said heightened surveillance of children who got Dengvaxia is ongoing and will be done for the next 5 years.

The DOH is also eyeing some hospitals to become Dengvaxia specialty centers, where children who would be diagnosed with severe dengue and received Dengvaxia will be treated. Dengvaxia fast lanes remain open and a “no-balance billing” policy remains in place.

Apart from this, the P1.16-billion medical support fund for students who received Dengvaxia approved by Congress and is up for review in a bicameral conference between lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Dengvaxia controversy started in November 2017 vaccine after its manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur released an advisory warning that its vaccine could cause a person to later develop severe dengue if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior to immunization. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.