The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH) address fears and uncertainties as the WHO Strategic Group of Experts (SAGE) released its recommendation to administer the world’s first dengue vaccine.
WHO SAGE is the principal advisory group to WHO for vaccines and immunization. It is charged with advising WHO on overall global vaccination policies and strategies, ranging from vaccines and technology, research and development, to delivery of vaccination and its linkages with other health interventions.
WHO SAGE does not approve/disapprove licensure of vaccines. Each country has a regulatory board assigned for such clearance.
“The number one main recommendation is that this vaccine is efficacious and safe but should be only used in populations where the disease incidence in the population is at least 50 percent.” Professor John S. Abramson, Chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) told a news conference in Geneva.
Dengue is highly endemic in the Philippines. It had the highest incidence and ranks number 1 in the Western Pacific Region from 2013 to 2015. As of April 2, 2016, a total of 33, 748 suspected dengue cases were reported nationwide. Most of the cases were from Region IV-A with 5,276 cases out of 33,748; Region III with 4, 384 cases and Region VII with 3, 812 cases.
SAGE added that because of the safety signal of increased risk of hospitalized and severe dengue identified in the 2-5 years old age group, the dengue vaccine is not recommended for use in children under 9 years of age. The target age for routine vaccination should be defined by each country based on an assessment of dengue endemicity and programmatic feasibility of targeting particular ages.
Last April 4, 2016, the DOH started the administration of dengue vaccines to Grade 4 pupils aged 9 years old and above in Regions III, IV-A, and National Capital Region (NCR). The next two doses will be given to the same students who received the first dose. The first dose of the vaccine will be given from April to June 2016 followed by the second dose on October – December 2016 and the last dose on April-June 2017. The Philippines is the first country to implement dengue vaccination through school-based immunization approach. As of April 17, 2016, a total of 148,431(72%) pupils were vaccinated out of 206,673 pupils with parents’ consent.
SAGE also stressed that the dengue vaccine should be administered as a 3-dose series given as 6 months interval. Countries should have systems in place for tracking vaccination because of the 12-month duration of the immunization schedule. The DOH established a strict monitoring and surveillance system for adverse events and side effects following immunization.
“This only proves that our country is on the right track in its incessant combat against dengue. Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases may be prevented if we put our collected efforts and start our actions within our homes through the ‘4S
campaign’. The 4S means Search & destroy mosquito breeding places, use Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than 2 days, and Say NO to indiscriminate fogging.” Garin concluded. (JCA)