ASUNCION – The Paraguayan Health Ministry said Monday that “the best vaccine against dengue” is the elimination of breeding grounds of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, carrier of the disease, while warning that the vaccine administered in some countries is far from being 100 percent effective.
The elimination of breeding grounds should be a priority for authorities and citizens alike, since an epidemic could easily start up following December’s rains, which in Asuncion flooded entire neighborhoods and forced some 100,000 residents to evacuate their homes, the ministry said.
“If we make that small effort as citizens to eliminate breeding grounds, we’ll have the best of vaccines, since not only will we prevent the disease but we’ll eliminate the carrier,” said Sonia Arza, head of the Expanded Immunization Program.
Though countries like Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines authorize the use of a vaccine against dengue fever, the Paraguayan Health Ministry recalled that no vaccine can eliminate the mosquito that transmits the illness.
Vaccination against dengue, applied to people between ages 9 and 45, is in its trial phase and has given positive results in 60 percent of cases in the three countries that authorize it.
“No one denies the relevance of the vaccine, but our investment in health care should make us sure to have a powerful impact and not just give us a false sense of security,” Arzo said.
For her part, Dr. Agueda Cabello, director general of Health Watch, noted that the vaccine reduces the hospitalization rate of dengue cases, even of the more severe forms of the illness.
She also said that vaccination provides greater protection for patients who have already suffered an episode of the disease, and has greater relevance in areas where the virus is endemic or hyperendemic.
According to the latest Health Ministry figures, up to the second-to-last week of 2015, some 16,000 patients had tested positive for dengue and 4,288 for Chikungunya, while the presence of the Zika virus has been detected in the Pedro Juan Caballero area on the Brazilian border.
The three viruses are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
In 2013, Paraguay suffered a dengue epidemic that infected approximately 150,000 people, of whom 252 died of the disease.