December 12, 2017, 12:21 pm
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No WHO approval issued before Dengvaxia vaccination

THE Department of Health (DOH) in early 2016 went ahead with its mass dengue immunization program without any advisory from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the effects of the Dengvaxia vaccine, the WHO said Tuesday.

The DOH was then under Janette Garin.

The WHO statement belied Garin’s claims that government administered Dengvaxia to more than 730,000 kids aged nine and above in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon based on the advice of the world health body.

WHO said it released guidelines for governments that wanted  to introduce the vaccine. 

The guidelines stated that the use of the vaccine should only be considered in areas where a high proportion (preferably at least 70 percent) of the community had already been exposed to the virus; that the vaccine should only be provided to people 9 years of age and above; and that people being vaccinated should receive 3 doses.

“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 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,” said the WHO.

The WHO said its position paper did not include a recommendation to countries, including the Philippines, 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,” it said.

The WHO’s position on the dengue vaccine was published in July 2016, and was based on the recommendations of its Strategic Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization.

Dengvaxia, according to the recent advisory of its manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, protects those who have already suffered from dengue. 

But if the vaccine is given to someone who has not gotten sick of dengue, the possibility of severe dengue infection is very high. This means high fever for two days and nosebleed.

The Dengvaxia mess has resulted in the DOH, particularly officials during the time of Garin, being blamed for pushing through with the mass dengue vaccination.

Garin claimed the DOH “fully cooperated and consulted with WHO prior to the implementation” of the program.

She also stressed that government implemented the program “in accordance with WHO guidance and recommendations.”

The WHO, meanwhile, expressed support for the decision of the current DOH to suspend the dengue immunization program.

The international health body also assured that it will closely monitor developments on the matter. A panel of experts will meet on the matter next week.

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered the withdrawal of Dengvaxia from the market.
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