MANILA – The Philippine authorities linked on Friday the death of at least 3 children to Dengvaxia, a vaccine against Dengue fever developed by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, and whose sale, distribution and marketing in the Philippines was suspended in late 2017.
Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said that the three cases were found to have a causal association with the administration of the vaccine.
“They died of dengue even (though) they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Domingo said during a press briefing.
On Dec. 1, the Health Department announced the temporary suspension of a dengue immunization campaign after Sanofi Pasteur warned that Dengavaxia might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus.
However, the vaccine had already been administered to more than 800,000 children in dengue-risk areas.
The study conducted by the government failed to find any evidence that the deaths of 14 children due to Dengue were related to the vaccine.
The possible link between the apparently defective Dengvaxia and the deaths strengthened the Health Department’s decision to stop the vaccination program, according to the health undersecretary.
“Dengvaxia is not ready for mass vaccinations and we would need three to five more years to watch and monitor if there would be other adverse reactions from the vaccine,” he said.
The ministry also released a statement Friday stating that there was fear and confusion among the parents of the inoculated children.
On Jan. 15, Sanofi Pasteur announced it would return 1.4 billion peso ($27.8 million) to the Philippine government for the doses of unused vaccines, following the suspension of the dengue vaccination campaign, while adding that the decision had nothing to do with the safety and quality of Dengvaxia.
According to Sanofi Pasteur – founded in 1994 in Lyon, France and based in Pennsylvania, USA – the vaccine protects patients with a history of dengue, but it is possible that the effects could be more severe than normal if it is administered to people who have not been come into contact with the disease before.
The vaccination campaign in the Philippines was launched in 2016 and was aimed at around a million students in some 6,000 public schools.
There are around 390 million dengue cases in the world every year, with almost 100 million cases manifesting the severity of disease, according to the WHO.