The Philippines is the first and only country to begin vaccinating children for dengue fever with the recently approved vaccine, Dengvaxia.

Image/Howard the Duck
Image/Howard the Duck

On April 4, 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) started the administration of dengue vaccines to Grade 4 pupils aged 9 years old and above in Regions III, IV-A, and National Capital Region (NCR). The next two doses will be given to the same students who received the first dose. The first dose of the vaccine will b¬e given from April to June 2016 followed by the second dose on October – December 2016 and the last dose on April-June 2017.   As of April 17, 2016, a total of 148,431 (72%) pupils were vaccinated out of 206,673 pupils with parents’ consent.

SAGE also stressed that the dengue vaccine should be administered as a 3-dose series given as 6 months interval. Countries should have systems in place for tracking vaccination because of the 12-month duration of the immunization schedule. The DOH established a strict monitoring and surveillance system for adverse events and side effects following immunization.

Last week, The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization met in Geneva, Switzerland and the topic of the dengue vaccine was discussed. SAGE recommended countries consider introduction of CYD-TDV (Dengvaxia) only in geographic settings (national or subnational) with high endemicity, as indicated by seroprevalence of approximately 70% or greater in the age group targeted for vaccination or other suitable epidemiologic markers.

The vaccine is not recommended when seroprevalence is below 50%. Dengue vaccine introduction should be a part of a comprehensive dengue control strategy together with a communication strategy, well-executed and sustained vector control, the best evidence-based clinical care for all patients with dengue, and robust dengue surveillance.

Dengue is highly endemic in the Philippines. It had the highest incidence and ranks number 1 in the Western Pacific Region from 2013 to 2015. As of April 2, 2016, a total of 33, 748 suspected dengue cases were reported nationwide. Most of the cases were from Region IV-A with 5,276 cases out of 33,748; Region III with 4, 384 cases and Region VII with 3, 812 cases.