Fresh concerns about the efficacy of the world’s first ever Dengue vaccine has come to light as the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that there is an urgent need to describe the potential risks of the vaccine.

Therefore, it has advised the countries planning to use the vaccine to screen the population before vaccination. It has strictly directed the countries to vaccinate only seropositive (tested positive for dengue) individuals.

Dengvaxia (CYD-TDV), the vaccine in question is produced by the Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) formulated by WHO is examining the concerns caused by the vaccine.

A senior Cabinet official admitted that the controversial dengue vaccine “scare” that allegedly resulted in the death of school children continues to have an adverse impact on the government’s other vital immunization programmes.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said this was again exemplified when an outbreak of measles cases was reported in a “barangay” (village) in Taguig City in Metro Manila.

Duque admitted the parents initially refused to have their children undergo anti-measles vaccination due to the scare arising from the controversial use of the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine used to immunize more that 800,000 Filipino school children in 2016.

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A Sanofi Pasteur official said Monday that the French drugmaker couldn’t comply with the Philippines’ request for a refund of dengue vaccines injected on hundreds of thousands of children because it would imply that the drug is ineffective.

Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi Pasteur’s Asia-Pacific chief, told a House of Representatives hearing that it’s clear in “absolute terms” that the Philippines would reduce dengue infections more by using the company’s Dengvaxia vaccine than by halting its use.

“Dengvaxia is an effective product,” Triomphe told lawmakers.

“Reimbursing doses that have been already injected, where the benefits of protection have been provided, will, de facto, imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case.”

New dengue vaccines being developed by Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co Ltd and U.S. government scientists are poised to provide a safer alternative to Sanofi’s Dengvaxia, according to vaccine experts, because they already take into account some of the issues that sidelined the product last year.

Sanofi revealed in November that Dengvaxia - the world’s first dengue vaccine - might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus. The news prompted an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated.

Next-generation vaccines by Japan’s Takeda and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in conjunction with Brazil’s Butantan Institute, are now in late-stage testing.

TWICE I have been designated as an expert resource person to the Senate hearings on the recent dengue vaccination debacle. Many in the media have called me a “whistleblower” because of my statements. But instead of being overcome by fear, I am moved by real concern.

Observing the events unfold and hearing the sentiment of the people, I think I share a burning question with many others: was this a well-designed, planned and implemented mass vaccination campaign during the 2016 national elections? Or was this a well-designed, planned and implemented election campaign using immunization during the 2016 national elections?

I am only a public health advocate, hence I cannot comment on the latter. Let the seasoned politicians debate whether or not mass vaccination is a good election campaign strategy.

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The Philippines has ordered an investigation into the immunisation of more than 730,000 children with a dengue vaccine that has been suspended following an announcement by French drug company Sanofi that it could worsen the disease in some cases.

The World Health Organisation said it hoped by the end of the year to conduct a full review of data on the vaccine, commercially known as Dengvaxia. In the meantime, the WHO recommended it be used only in people who had a prior infection with dengue.

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