The long anticipated immunization program against dengue fever was launched in the Philippines this past week. The program initially vaccinated 600 schoolchildren in Manila with the objective of 1 million children to be immunized against dengue in 2016.

Half the world’s population is now at risk of Dengue Fever due to its rapid spread around the world. Decades have been spent in developing the vaccine. The vaccine first got approval last year in December in Mexico. This is not the only vaccine against dengue being developed and it is only part of a larger effort against the disease which includes controlling the mosquitoes that are the carriers of dengue fever.

Dengue causes flu-like symptoms and has no specific treatment since it is a viral disease. Fatality rates can reach up to 20%. There is an estimated 390 million dengue cases annually which is a 30 fold increase in the last 50 years.

Dengue has had cases in 100 countries while in the 1970s there were only 9 countries that experienced dengue cases.

Currently, Sanofi is undertaking studies on Dengvaxia, administered 3 times in a year and is claimed to have an 80% success rate in dengue hospitalizations. The US National Institutes of Health conducted a study with a 100% success rate.

Dengvaxia, which is approved for use in individuals aged 9 to 45, is registered in the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador, with regulatory review processes underway in other countries. In the Philippines, students who are nine years old or older are being vaccinated. The vaccinations are free and presently taking place in public schools in Manila. The Department of Health has allocated 3 billion pesos for the initial immunization program.

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