KUALA LUMPUR, August 7 — The Philippines has declared a national epidemic after a spike in dengue fever killed 622 people.
The Manila Times reported that Philippines recorded 146,062 dengue cases from January to July 20 this year, 98 per cent higher than the same period last year.
According to the Philippines’ health department, Western Visayas had the most number of dengue cases at 23,330, followed by Calabarzon (16,515), Zamboanga Peninsula (12,317); Northern Mindanao (11,455); and Soccsksargen (11,083).
“It is important that a national epidemic be declared to identify where a localised response is needed and to enable the local government units to use the Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was quoted saying.
The Philippine government, however, insisted on not using the Dengvaxia vaccine for the mosquito-borne disease, after the Sanofi product was banned last February when several dozen children died after participating in a government immunisation campaign that gave shots to over 700,000 people in 2016 and 2017.
“Starting today, the DoH (Department of Health), together with other government agencies, the LGUs (local government units), schools, offices and communities will conduct the ‘Sabayang 4 o’clock habit,’ focusing on destroying mosquito breeding sites,” Duque was quoted saying.
“I would like to urge the public to follow what we have done. We don’t have medicine, we don’t have vaccination, so this is the only way we can prevent the spread of dengue, and we hope that could also decrease the number of cases we have recorded.”
The Guardian reported Duque as saying that the Philippine government was considering an appeal to allow Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical firm, to put Dengvaxia back in the market, but decided not to use the vaccine in the current epidemic that has severely affected young children.
“This vaccine does not squarely address the most vulnerable group which is the 5-9 years of age,” Duque was quoted saying.
The vaccine, which is now licensed in 20 countries, is approved for use for those aged nine and above.
Duque also reportedly said the World Health Organization had advised the Philippines that the Dengvaxia vaccine was “not recommended” to tackle an outbreak and that the drug was “not cost-effective” because one dose cost about US$20.
The Guardian reported the region has seen a rise in dengue fever this year, including in Malaysia and Vietnam.
In Malaysia, 75,913 dengue cases were recorded nationwide at the end of July, with 111 deaths, almost double the 40,320 cases reported during the same period last year, which saw 66 deaths.