PH health department implemented dengue vaccination program sans WHO preliminary advice

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THE World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday clarified that it did not it recommended to the Philippines and other countries to use Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine, for their immunization programs.

The WHO issued the clarification after the French manufacturer of Dengvaxia, Sanofi Pasteur, revealed its findings on Friday that the vaccine’s use on individuals who have not been infected by the Dengue virus prior to immunization could lead to more severe cases of Dengue infection.

The WHO, in its clarificatory statement, said its “position paper did not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs. 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.”

The WHO noted that the vaccine should be used in areas where a high proportion, or at least 70%, of the population had been exposed to the virus. It also said the vaccine must only be given to people aged 9 and above, and those to be vaccinated must receive 3 doses. (Download a copy of WHO’s position paper http://www.who.int/wer/2016/wer9130/en/).

Former health Secretary Janette Garin. Image © http://cnnphilippines.com/

News reports indicate that on April 4, 2016, former Philippine Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin launched the school-based dengue vaccination program in the country’s National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon. Since then, more than 700,000 Filipino grade school students have received the risky dengue vaccine.

Garin put the vaccination program into effect even before the WHO Strategic Group of Experts (SAGE) published its preliminary advice on Dengvaxia.

Nevertheless, according to the WHO, the Philippines had met all three conditions for the vaccination.

WHO acknowledged mid-April 2016 that these conditions appeared to be met in the 3 regions of the Philippines in which the dengue vaccination effort…,” the WHO said.

The world health body, however, observed that the vaccination “was already ongoing at that time – noting that the decision to roll out the vaccine had been taken by the DOH before WHO’s advice became available.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ health department announced that it has suspended the vaccination program, pending consultations with the WHO’s SAGE next week.

In reaction, the WHO said it is supporting the suspension of the vaccination program.

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,” said the WHO.

WHO continues to advise anyone [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,” it added.

As this developed, Malacañang said it will ask the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the matter.

Garin, who was appointed by former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, said she welcomes the investigation.

In the event that there will be authorities who will point culpability to me, I am ready to face the consequences,” she told ANC TV in an interview. She also insisted that the vaccination program was “implemented in accordance with WHO guidance and recommendation.”

 

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