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Philippines puts dengue vaccination programme on hold amid infection fears

Health chiefs in the Philippines have suspended the country's dengue immunisation programme after new findings by the vaccine's manufacturer that severe cases of the disease can occur in the longer term among those vaccinated without prior infection.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said further recommendations will be released on December 12 or 13 by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, an advisory body of the World Health Organisation.

More than 730,000 schoolchildren aged nine and above in three highly endemic areas of the Philippines have received at least the first dose of Dengvaxia, the first licensed dengue vaccine, which is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur.

The Department of Health launched its 3.5 billion peso (£51.5 million) public dengue immunisation drive last year - the world's first such programme.

Sanofi said on Wednesday that analysis based on up to six years of clinical data showed that, in the longer term, more cases of severe dengue can occur following vaccination among people who have not previously had the dengue infection. It said it will ask health authorities to update information provided to doctors and patients.

The analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit in those who had prior infection, Sanofi added.

For those who were not previously infected by the dengue virus, the analysis found that vaccination prevented severe illness for at least 30 months, Mr Duque told reporters.

He said there are currently no reports of severe dengue infection among those vaccinated. He did not say whether legal action will be taken pending conclusion of a review he has ordered of the contract and other documents on the Dengvaxia immunisation.

The minister said the government will profile all those who received the vaccination and heighten its surveillance mechanisms. That will include mandatory history-taking of those vaccinated, mandatory reporting of all vaccine recipients admitted to hospital regardless of symptoms, and five years of post-vaccination surveillance.

Khristine Estrada-Cabanayan, a Sanofi spokeswoman in the Philippines, said the company is working closely with the Department of Health and will release a statement to address concerns regarding the vaccine.


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