By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman, Reporter
Dengue vaccines are now available to the public. Watsons Philippines, the country’s leading beauty chain, will be offering dengue vaccination sessions at its 108 branches nationwide on April 30 and May 14, from noon until 8 p.m. Dengvaxia — the world’s first dengue vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasteur — requires three doses with six months interval each. The price is P4,000 per dose.
The dengue vaccination is “part of our commitment to improve the lives and health of Filipinos by making health care more accessible to them,” said Danilo Chiong, Watsons Trading Health Director, at a launch on March 31 at the Shangri-La Manila. He said the price is reasonable given the high incidence of dengue in the Philippines and its high cost of treatment, often including hospitalization, medications, and other medical fees.
The first vaccination schedule will be on April 30 (first dose) followed by Oct. 29 (second dose), and April 29, 2018 (third dose); while the second vaccination program is on May 14 (first dose) followed by Nov. 12 (second dose), and May 13, 2018 (third dose). People should not miss their scheduled vaccinations because of the drug potency. Mr. Chiong said the attending doctors will text the patients to remind them of the scheduled doses.
People ages nine to 45 can avail of the vaccination that will protect them from all four strains of dengue virus. Dr. Rontgene M. Solante, former president of the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), said during the press launch that anyone who has had dengue before can still get the vaccination so that they will be protected against the three other dengue strains.
Prior to Watson’s public vaccination campaign, the Department of Health and the Department of Education already vaccinated about one million Grade 4 students last year. The students will be receiving their last dose this April.
The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world, with the World Health Organization estimating 390 million dengue infections happening every year. Among the billion people at risk, 70% of whom are from the Asia Pacific region which includes the Philippines. Last year, the country had over 200,000 reported dengue cases.
Dengvaxia, according to Sanofi Pasteur, has efficacy rates of 93.2% for the reduction of severe dengue cases, 80.8% for the reduction in hospitalized dengue, and 65.6% for the reduction in symptomatic dengue. “While there is no 100% efficacy, vaccines are among the safest in medicines,” said Mr. Solante.
The side effects of the vaccination include headache, myalgia (or body pain), and malaise, “which are mild to moderate and can be resolved within one to three days,” he said.
Dengvaxia has been approved for use in the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Guatemala, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, but so far, the Philippines is the only country to make it available to the public. The rest are for private use.
“The only country using it (Dengvaxia) is the Philippines, but Brazil is planning to use it. The other countries have licensed the vaccine, but they are using it for private and not public-mass access,” said Usa Thisyakorn, Professor of Pediatrics at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, at a press conference of the Asian Dengue Vaccination Advocacy (ADVA) program on Feb. 28 at Hotel Jen.
“In the war against dengue, countries should fight together not alone,” she said, adding that the other countries that have licensed the vaccine “may need some time” before they launch it outside private consumption.
The bottom line is that the vaccine, which took more than two decades to develop, is safe.
“Dengue is a complicated issue. What we have now are evidence to prove that the vaccine has showed efficacy — there is no perfect efficacy — but the one thing, the first thing, we always think about is always safety. Before it goes to humans, there are pre-clinical trials and phases one, phase two, phase three, before it is thrown out [to the public],” said Dr. Lulu Bravo, a pediatrician, researcher, and professor of Pediatric Infectious and Tropical Diseases, College of Medicine UP Manila.