1 May 2018

WHO warning over dengue fever vaccine

Communicable Disease Immunology

The World Health Organisation issued a warning over the use of the dengue fever vaccine, saying it should only ever be given to people who had previously contracted the virus.

The move follows the revelation in November last year by the vaccine’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, that the vaccine could increase the risk of severe dengue fever in people who had not been previously exposed to the virus.

That revelation lead to the halting of an immunisation campaign against the virus in the Philippines which has been potentially linked to the deaths of three people.

The updated recommendations of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) on the use of the vaccine, Dengvaxia, were made on 19 April.

People who catch dengue fever more than once can be at risk of a haemorrhagic version of the disease which can result in breathing problems, haemorrhaging and organ failure in sev ere cases.

“We have now clear information that the vaccine needs to be dealt with in a much safer way by using it exclusively in people already infected with dengue before,” SAGE chairman Alejandro Cravioto told media.

“It requires for the people to be tested through a system that is not currently available but that we feel will be developed in the next years.”

Sanofi said the company was confident of the vaccine’s safety and its potential to reduce the dengue disease burden in endemic countries, and that it would continue work with health authorities to ensure the best use of the vaccine to protect at-risk populations.