Philippines Declares Epidemic After Dengue Fever Kills More Than 600
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 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”.
Patients suffering from dengue fever in a makeshift hospital in Maasin in the Philippine province of Iloilo.