MANILA, Philippines – The world's first-ever dengue vaccine is now available in the Philippines – almost two months after it won regulatory approval in the country.
Sanofi Pasteur Country Manager Ching Santos said doses of Dengvaxia arrived in the country last week and have been made available to physicians starting Wednesday, February 10.
"Doctors can actually place their orders, so that by Saturday [February 13] siguro lahat po tayo ay pwede nang pumunta sa ating mga doctors para itanong at ma-assess tayo whether we can be vaccinated any time [starting] today," Santos told reporters after the official launch of the vaccine on Thursday, February 11.
(Doctors can actually place their orders so that by Saturday maybe all of us can already go to our doctors to ask and be assessed whether we can be vaccinated any time starting today.)
The French pharmaceutical giant developed and manufactured the vaccine which will be distributed in the Philippines by Zuellig Pharma.
Santos said an initial 300,000 doses will be made available to the private market. The vaccine is recommended for all healthy individuals aged 9 years old to 45 years old.
"We need to cover more patients na makataas sana yung coverage rate para magkaroon ng greater impact sa reduction ng disease (We need to cover more patients so we can increase our coverage rate so that this will have a greater impact on the reduction of the disease)," she told Rappler.
This number does not include the 3 million doses needed to vaccinate 1 million children, based on the target of the health department.
The launch of the vaccine in the Philippines is apt, given that the country is among countries in the Western Pacific region with the highest incidence of dengue in recent years.
Dengue, a disease common in tropical and sub-tropical countries in the world, is transmitted through the bite of an Aedes mosquito. Dengue fever is potentially fatal and mainly affects children.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 400 million people are infected with dengue worldwide every year, two-thirds of which are in Asia.
Citing a local study done by a professor at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Dr Rose Capeding of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine said the total annual disease cost of dengue was estimated at P16.7 billion.
Although Santos refused to disclose the price of the vaccine, medical experts assured the public it will be "affordable and reasonable."
"We pediatricians and physicians realize the burden of dengue and definitely, the price is going to be very affordable and reasonable. Our aim is to protect our patients – as much as possible we don't want them to get hospitalized. Preventive care is actually primary in in the services we provide our patients," said Dr Sally Gatchalian, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines.
The vaccine, which provides protection from all 4 dengue strains, will be given in 3 doses at 6-months interval. Systemic reactions to the vaccine include fever, headache, muscle pains, joint pains, and weakness.
"The vaccine has been looked into in terms of its efficacy, from the time the child was injected with the first dose until after receiving 3 doses, the vaccine was shown to be effective," Capeding explained.
It took more than 20 years to develop the vaccine, which boasts of 65.6% reduction in symptomatic dengue, 93.2% reduction in severe form of dengue, and 80.8% reduction in hospitalization due to dengue. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.