Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Manila, Philippines (4E) – Southeast Asia’s Philippine government had called off its $70 million anti-dengue immunization program two days after Sanofi Pasteur announced November 29 that Dengvaxia vaccine could cause severe symptoms on its recipients who had not infected with dengue virus before.
A study conducted by the French pharmaceutical giant had indicated that the vaccine is only beneficial for people who had “prior infection.”
The immunization program, before it was pulled off, had already vaccinated over 700,000 children in the country’s most populated region in Luzon – Metro Manila, Calabarzon area, and Central Luzon.
The Philippine health officials had already advised its health personnel in these areas to conduct close and round-the-clock monitoring on the status of the immunized children. This does prevent, however, for parents not to worry about the possible serious complications the vaccine could cause to their children.
Anthony Leachon, a member of the health office expert panel on dengue, said they had advised the health office against implementing the program without rigid serological testing. But the program was implemented nevertheless.
“We will need massive surveillance program to track them,” Leachon told The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Some of these children, according to Leachon, could possibly develop serious cases of dengue but it is impossible to say who these children are.
“All of them will have to live with this possibility for the rest of their lives,” he added.
Philippine health secretary Francisco Duque allayed fears by parents whose children had undergone the immunization program that the vaccine has up to 30 months of protection for a person who received it regardless of he or she had been infected or not by the virus.
Anger over the botched program and worry mounted up among parents of the immunized children as the Philippine government scrambled for immediate steps to ensure close surveillance of the recipients.
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