WHO understands that many people in the Philippines are concerned about dengue vaccination, following the release of new information about Dengvaxia® by the vaccine manufacturer released last week.

Image/Howard the Duck
Image/Howard the Duck

The new information indicates an increased risk of severe dengue infection several years after vaccination among people who had not been exposed to dengue prior to vaccination.

Like many others in the Philippines, WHO is awaiting the expert analysis of new data and advice about its implications for use of the vaccine. In the meantime, WHO supports the Philippines Department of Health’s (DOH) decision to suspend the ongoing vaccination programme until more information is available. This is appropriate in the circumstances.

Philippines FDA advisory

At this time, it is also important to clarify the following:

  • WHO’s position on the dengue vaccine was published in July 2016, based on recommendations of the Strategic Group of Experts on Immunisation which met and published preliminary advice in mid-April 2016.
  • The WHO position paper did not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs. Rather, WHO outlined a series of considerations national governments should take into account in deciding whether to introduce the vaccine, based on a review of available data at the time, along with possible risks.
  • These included the following: first, use of the vaccine should only be considered in areas where a high proportion (preferably at least 70%) of the community had already been exposed to the virus; second, the vaccine should only be provided to people 9 years of age and above; and third, people being vaccinated should receive 3 doses.
  • WHO acknowledged mid-April 2016 that these conditions appeared to be met in the 3 regions of the Philippines in which the dengue vaccination effort was already ongoing at that time – noting that the decision to roll out the vaccine had been taken by the DOH before WHO’s advice became available.

WHO looks forward to the advice of its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization which will meet to review the new evidence next week – and as always, we stand ready to work with the DOH to provide information to affected families, and to support the DOH’s deliberations on the future of the dengue vaccination programme.

Sanofi updates information on dengue vaccine

WHO continues to advise anyone (vaccinated or not) with signs of dengue disease – high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and/or rash – to seek medical care.