MANILA – Malacañang and the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday addressed the concerns of parents of children who were given dengue vaccines, the distribution of which has been suspended by government over concerns it could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said French drug firm Sanofi, the manufacturer of the world’s first-ever dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, has said that only 1 out of 10 Filipinos have no prior history of dengue and are the only ones facing the risk of contracting severe dengue.
“The good news is people should not panic about the dengue vaccine. There is no danger with the dengue vaccine,” Roque said in a news conference.
“What Sanofi, the manufacturer, revealed is that new studies indicate that for those who already had contact with dengue --- and that’s nine out of 10 Filipinos --- the dengue vaccine is in fact very effective in protection the patient from another attack of dengue.”
Last week, Sanofi disclosed that Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms for people who had not previously been infected.
Some 733,000 children have been vaccinated with Dengvaxia since 2016, when the Philippines became the first country to start using it on a mass scale. The DOH has suspended the public vaccination program following Sanofi's announcement.
DOH Spokesperson Lyndon Lee-Suy in the same news conference said that based on available data, only about 10 percent of Filipino children from Central Luzon, Calabarzon and National Capital Region who have been given the vaccines are at risk of contracting what Sanofi called “severe dengue.”
“Tingnan din natin ‘yung positibong anggulo na this is very effective among those cases na na-expose doon sa dengue dati, which is, sabi ko nga sa datos natin, 90 percent of the Filipinos,” Lee-Suy said.
Individuals previously infected with dengue have experienced "clear and sustained" protection from the disease for up to 6 years after their first dose of the vaccine, according to Sanofi general manager Ching Santos.
Lee-Suy also noted that Sanofi’s standards differ from that of the World Health Organization (WHO), where severe dengue is characterized by bleeding and organ failure.
Dr. Joselito Sta. Ana, the firm's regional director, earlier said Sanofi classifies fever for 2 days, lower platelet count and bruising among the symptoms of severe dengue.
The WHO, on the other hand, says severe dengue is characterized by bleeding and organ failure, noted Dr. Ng Su Peing, global medical head of Sanofi.
“The ‘severe’ that was being identified by Sanofi is totally different with our ‘severe’ classification that is being used currently together with WHO,” Lee-Suy said.
“Now, why are they using different classification? Hindi kasi nila pwedeng baguhin bigla ang kanilang classification din. Magbuhat nag-umpisa sila nitong trial na ito, which was like 20 years ago. It took them like 20 years bago nila na-develop itong vaccine na ito… Kung kaya’t hindi pwedeng kalagitnaan biglang nagbabago din sila ng classification.”
The DOH official said the roughly 10 percent of the children who received the vaccines are not necessarily guaranteed of acquiring severe dengue, noting that dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes, and not the vaccine, will still be the trigger the viral disease.
“You may develop. You may be at risk. But I’m not saying that those one out of 10 would eventually develop severe dengue. Now, paano natin lalabanan ‘yun? Balik tayo sa basic natin. You have to have a good immune system, resistance level kasi infection pa rin ito eh,” he said.
SANOFI: NO DEATHS FROM DENGVAXIA
Sanofi also said Monday there have been no reported deaths in the Philippines related to the P3.4 billion dengue vaccination program.
"As far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination," Dr. Ruby Dizon, a medical director at the French firm, told reporters.
"This is assessed by an independent expert group which is convened by the DOH, which is called the National Adverse Event Following Immunization Committee."
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption has claimed 3 children in Central Luzon have allegedly died after receiving Dengvaxia.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice announced it has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the procurement and usage of the dengue vaccine.
Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II directed the NBI to conduct investigation and case build-up over the "alleged danger to public health" arising from the vaccination drive of the DOH and Sanofi.
Lee-Suy said the DOH is ready for any investigation regarding the vaccine, noting the department has been participating in congressional inquiries where it was able to explain the process that led to the approval to distribute Dengvaxia. – with Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News