By Meleasie Goviro – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Filipino health officials launched the first mass immunisation program for dengue fever this week using Dengvaxia, a recently licenced vaccine developed to combat the mosquito-borne disease.
Dengvaxia was developed by French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pasteur, and first licenced in the Philippines in December, to be used on individuals between the ages of 9 and 45.
Hundreds of public school students at an elementary school in Marikina, Manila, were the first to receive a dose of the immunisation drug.
Philippine Health Secretary, Janette Garin, led the first mass immunisation with a highlight of the program’s objective.
“That is what we are targeting, for the communities in the Philippines to be protected and the dengue illness will actually evolve into a milder type that will not require hospitalisation,” she said.
The Philippines has reserved 3.5 billion pesos for the vaccines, targeting over one million schoolchildren in areas with high dengue cases.
Each child will be vaccinated in three doses.
Some critics disagree with the use of Dengvaxia, as it was still undergoing regulatory inspection and awaiting approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Parents like Helen Barron, whose children had participated in the immunisation program, placed her trust in the government.
“We, as parents, are a bit anxious, but we know they will never give anything to our children without making sure of their safety,” Barron said.
The Philippines had the highest incidence of dengue fever in the Western Pacific from 2013 to 2015 with more than two hundred thousand cases reported in 2015, the health department reported.
On a worldwide scale, according to WHO, Dengue is now the world’s fastest-spreading tropical disease, with the annual number of cases increasing 30-fold in the last 50 years.