WHO approves PH rollout of dengue vaccine
THE WORLD Health Organization (WHO) yesterday said the absence of a recommendation for the use of the first dengue vaccine does not prevent countries like the Philippines from employing it in its programs for public health.
In a press briefing yesterday, WHO country representative Dr. Gundo Weiler said the organization is supportive of the dengue vaccination program the Department of Health (DOH) is set to roll out next week to one million public school children in three areas with the highest incidence of the disease.
“It is the prerogative of a country to license the product, determine its use based on the internal scientific appraisal of the clinical research that is underpinning the product,” he said.
Weiler made the statement to clarify issues surrounding the DOH’s rollout of the dengue vaccination program ahead of the WHO recommendation.
Some doctors, led by Dr. Anthony Dans of the National Academy of Science and Technology, have raised doubts about the safety and efficacy of Dengvaxia, the world’s first dengue vaccine manufactured by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi.
The doctors also strongly opposed the implementation of the DOH’s P3-billion program without the recommendations by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization.
Weiler said this group of experts meet twice a year to look into new medical products—drugs and vaccines—and help WHO develop recommendations on how these can be best used in the countries.
When the group meets this month, it will tackle the new dengue vaccine and its recommendations will be published in May, he said.
These recommendations usually cover the following areas: how geographical areas, which populations and what age groups can use a particular drug or vaccine; and how governments can synchronize a certain vaccine with routine immunization schedules, said the WHO official.
Weiler said that in the light of the number of countries registering the dengue vaccine and the number of serious clinical trials on its efficacy and safety, the WHO has asked its group of independent experts to review all the data and to develop recommendations that will help countries where it is currently available to “strategize on how it can be best used.”
He also said the WHO was not involved in making decisions for countries as to whether or not a product should be licensed and used.
“It is not the WHO’s mandate to license a medical product, to determine whether or not a product should be used in a country. This is the prerogative of the national regulatory authority in the country,” he said.
Stressing the importance of immunization programs, Weiler said the WHO will provide the DOH technical advice in implementing the dengue vaccination program, especially in the monitoring and surveillance of possible side effects and review of protocols.
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