Dengue vaccine: No reported deaths among 730,000 Filipino children

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French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur said yesterday that there have been no reported deaths linked to its dengue vaccine, as the Philippines ordered a probe into an immunisation programme involving more than 730,000 children.

Non-governmental group Volunteers against Crime and Corruption said it had information that three children in Luzon island, who were vaccinated in April last year with Dengvaxia - the world's first vaccine for dengue, had died.

But Sanofi's medical director Ruby Dizon said at a news conference: "As far as we know, there are no reported deaths related to dengue vaccination.

"If we try to create this misinformation, this will not only have an impact on the dengue vaccination but (also) the government's entire immunisation programme."

Dengue is the most widespread mosquito-borne disease in the world, with nearly 400 million infections every year.
Philippine health officials rolled out a 3.5 billion peso (S$93 million) vaccination programme using Dengvaxia in April last year, involving more than one million children.

At least 730,000 of them have received the first of three doses of the vaccine as of Nov 17.

But the programme was suspended last Friday after an alert by Sanofi that its vaccine could prove harmful to people who have never been infected.

"For those not previously infected by dengue virus, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection."

For those who had been infected, the vaccine could prevent repeat infection.

Dr Ng Su Peing, Sanofi's global medical head, said nine in 10 Filipinos will be exposed to the virus by the time they reach adolescence. Two-thirds, however, will not exhibit symptoms of the disease.