The Philippines government made an important announcement this week concerning the prevention of a major infectious disease that is a big problem on the archipelago.

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

With the announcement two weeks ago of the new dengue fever vaccine, Dengvaxia, by the FDA, government officials say susceptible poor children in regions with high incidence of dengue will be the first beneficiaries of the government-procured dengue vaccine.

Dengue fever, a mosquito borne viral disease with potentially serious consequences, particularly in the young, is a problem in the Philippines. In 2013, Department of Health (DOH) reported 204,906 cases of dengue, the highest number recorded since the establishment of the National Dengue Prevention and Control Program in 1993 and was 62.7% higher than the 5-year median cases.

While the number of cases dropped to about 106,000 cases in 2014, the data from the first 11 months of 2015 reveals that some 170,000 cases and more than 500 deaths were reported through Nov. 21.

Health Secretary Janette Garin said President Benigno Aquino III approved the provision of dengue vaccine to 1,077,623 9-year-old Filipino children who are currently enrolled in government schools in the hardest hit regions of the National Capital Region, Region III (Central Luzon), and Region IV-A (Calabarzon), according to local media.

And, if the results of a recent study are on target, the administration of the dengue vaccines should produce. In the recent unpublished cost-effectiveness study done by Professor Hilton Lam of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, a nationwide annual routine vaccination of 9-year olds starting in 2016 will lead to an estimated 24.2% reduction in dengue cases over a 5-year time horizon, translating to 775,053 cases avoided, 502,000 avoided hospitalization, 22,010 avoided deaths, and almost 21 billion avoided cost to society.

Local media reported last week that the DOH is considering using the savings from sin tax incremental revenues to pay for Dengvaxia.