Lift ban on Dengvaxia, doctors' group urges DOH

MANILA, Philippines – A doctors' group on Thursday, August 1, renewed its call for the Department of Health (DOH) to lift its ban on the Dengvaxia vaccine to help stem dengue outbreaks in some regions of the country. 

Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare (DTPW) made the call as the DOH  declared a national dengue alert amid the rising dengue cases in the country.

“DTPW believes that Secretary [Francisco Duque III’s] recent declaration of a national dengue alert shows that the  Philippines  falls  under  the  ‘high-risk  populations’  that  the  World Health Organization recommends  the anti-dengue vaccine to,” the group said. (READ: A year after Dengvaxia: Immunization drops, measles outbreaks soar) 

Dr Minguita Padilla, DTPW co-convenor, noted that the Philippines "has the highest incidence and death rate from dengue this part of the world, yet it is the only country in the world that has banned it."

"The vaccine need not be included in the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) of government so that government need not spend for it, but at least make it available to physicians to offer for the millions of patients who can benefit from it," Padilla said.

"We further ask that our government leaders listen to the scientific evidence provided so that we can move forward for the sake of public welfare," she added.

DTPW, which earlier urged the DOH to keep the vaccine in the market in November 2018, is composed of physicians, scientists, members of the academe, former health secretaries, and past and present heads of professional medical associations and non-governmental organizations. It is led by former health secretary Esperanza Cabral. 

Dengvaxia was permanently banned in the country in February as Sanofi Pasteur, its manufacturer, was found by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have shown "complete disregard of government rules and regulations."

On Wednesday, July 31, former health secretary now Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin renewed her call to bring back the controversial dengue vaccine amid the spike in dengue cases, saying this would not have happened if the anti-dengue vaccination program was continued.

Malacañang said the same day that it would consider the proposal "if experts can vouch for the vaccine."

A total of 106,630 dengue cases had been reported from January 1 to June 29, 2019 – 85% more than the 57,564 cases reported from the same period in 2018. 

The FDA suspended thevaccine’s certificate of product registration in December 2017– a month after Duque suspended the dengue immunization program, which by then had covered 837,000 Filipino gradeschoolers. (TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students) 

The Public Attorney's Office had filed complaints before the Department of Justice linking the use of the vaccine to over 30 deaths. But the DOH and several vaccine experts have since insisted that there were no proven links between Dengvaxia and the reported deaths. – Rappler.com