Philip­pines De­clares Epi­demic Af­ter Dengue Fever Kills More Than 600

Fiji Sun - - Asia News -

The Philip­pines has de­clared a na­tional dengue epi­demic af­ter hun­dreds of peo­ple died of the dis­ease this year. There were 146,062 cases of dengue from Jan­uary 1 to July 20 this year, the De­part­ment of Health (DOH) said, a 98 per cent in­crease from the same pe­riod the pre­vi­ous year.

A to­tal of 622 peo­ple have died from dengue, Health Sec­re­tary Fran­cisco Duque told a news con­fer­ence.

The coun­try also stood firm on its ban on the world’s first dengue vac­cine Deng­vaxia, which was banned fol­low­ing the deaths of dozens of chil­dren who were among more than 700,000 peo­ple given shots in

2016 and 2017 in a govern­ment im­mu­ni­sa­tion cam­paign.

Govt stud­ies an ap­peal

Mr Duque said the govern­ment was study­ing an ap­peal to al­low French phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firm Sanofi to put the vac­cine back in the Philip­pine mar­ket, but ruled out us­ing the drug to com­bat the on­go­ing epi­demic.

“This vac­cine does not squarely ad­dress the most vul­ner­a­ble group which is the five to nine years of age,” Mr Duque said.

The vac­cine, now li­censed in 20 coun­tries ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, is ap­proved for use for those aged nine and older. Mr Duque said the United Na­tions agency also ad­vised Manila that the vac­cine was “not rec­om­mended” as a re­sponse to an out­break, and it was “not cost-ef­fec­tive” with one dose cost­ing a thou­sand pe­sos (about US$20).

Dengue is the world’s most com­mon mos­quito-borne virus and in­fects an es­ti­mated 390 mil­lion peo­ple in more than 120 coun­tries each year.

The con­tro­versy

The Philip­pines in 2016, be­came the first na­tion to use Deng­vaxia in a mass im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme.

But con­tro­versy arose af­ter Sanofi dis­closed a year later that it could worsen symp­toms for peo­ple not pre­vi­ously in­fected by the dengue virus.

The dis­clo­sure sparked a na­tion­wide panic, with some par­ents al­leg­ing the vac­cine killed their chil­dren.

The con­tro­versy also trig­gered a vac­cine scare that the govern­ment said was a fac­tor be­hind measles out­breaks that the UN Chil­dren’s Fund said have killed more than 200 peo­ple this year.

Mr Duque on Tues­day called on other govern­ment agen­cies, schools, of­fices and com­mu­ni­ties get out of of­fices, homes and schools ev­ery af­ter­noon to take part in ef­forts to “search and de­stroy mos­quito breed­ing sites”.

Photo: EPA

Pa­tients suf­fer­ing from dengue fever in a makeshift hos­pi­tal in Maasin in the Philip­pine prov­ince of Iloilo.

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