In a news conference in Manila, the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi announced that their dengue vaccine Dengvaxia could sometimes worsen the disease. They presented their findings with added concerns that the vaccine had not been suspended earlier, despite the World Health Organisation reporting in 2016 that there was a risk.
The WHO’s paper said that the “vaccination may be ineffective or may theoretically even increase the future risk of hospitalised or severe dengue illness in those who are seronegative at the time of first vaccination regardless of age.”
“As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination,” said Ruby Dizon, medical director at Sanofi Pasteur Philippines.
Nearly 734,000 Filipino children aged 9 and above have received one dose of the vaccine as part of a program that cost 3.5 billion pesos ($69.54 million).
The Department of Justice on Monday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the potential risk of the vaccine, and “if evidence so warrants, to file appropriate charges thereon.”
“We will leave no stone unturned in making those responsible for this shameless public health scam, which puts hundreds of thousands of young lives at risk, accountable,” a spokesman for the Phillipines president Duterte said.
While Sanofi’s Dengvaxia is the first-ever approved vaccine for dengue, scientists already recognized it was not perfect and did not protect equally against the four different types of the virus in clinical tests.
A new analysis from 6 years of clinical data showed that for people who were previously infected with the virus, the vaccine provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever.
However, Sanofi said that for people who were not previously infected with dengue fever, a risk of severe disease could occur in the long term after vaccination.