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First dengue vaccine now available

by October 26, 2016 General

The first dengue vaccine has arrived in Indonesia, bringing hopes of curbing one of the most challenging diseases in the country.

The vaccine, named Dengxavia, is a result of 20 years of research and experiments by Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest vaccine producer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed the vaccine, saying that it represents a major step in controlling the disease as there is no established cure for dengue fever currently, which can cause severe nausea, bone pain, headaches, rashes, bleeding and even death.

Mexico was the first country in the world to register the vaccine in December last year and was quickly followed by 11 other countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, all countries with a high endemic rate of dengue fever.

Ongoing clinical trials in Indonesia, which started in 2011 and are expected to finish in 2017, show the vaccine to be 65.6 percent effective against dengue fever.

“The availability of the dengue vaccine increases dengue prevention, bringing hope to people in Indonesia in the fight against the deadly disease,” said the Health Ministry’s director of vector and zoonotic disease prevention and control Vensya Sitohang.

In Indonesia, the vaccine has received a permit from the Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM) but only for people aged nine to 16.

Availability of the vaccine comes at a time when dengue cases are on the rise in Indonesia with close to 160,000 cases recorded up through September this year, a 17 percent increase as compared to the same period last year. In 2015, more than 129,000 people were infected with the virus and 1,071 people died, according to data from the Health Ministry.

Between 2004 and 2010, Indonesia reported the second highest number of dengue cases in the world behind Brazil, according to the WHO. With an average of 129,000 cases per year, Indonesia has the largest number of people with dengue fever in Southeast Asia. The amount of cases has cost the country US$323 million a year.

With rising dengue cases and an increasing economic burden, the government is planning to apply a national immunization program, pending assessment on the effectiveness of the vaccine and the budget proposal for the program.

The ministry’s surveillance and quarantine director, Elizabeth Jane Soepardi, said the government would run a pilot project in regions with a high-rate of dengue cases to test the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“We plan to start in August next year, during the national immunization week for school children. Hopefully we’ll get results by early 2018 so we can start planning [for a national roll out of the vaccine],” she said.

Elizabeth said the government needed to test the vaccine, even though Sanofi Pasteur had done clinical trials, so the government could approve an increase in the health budget for the roll out of the vaccine.

“With no scientific evidence on the positive impacts of the vaccine, the House of Representatives would not agree to using people’s money to administer the vaccine because the vaccine is quite expensive,” she said.

Sanofi Pasteur Indonesia general manager Joko Murdianto declined to disclose the price of the vaccine as the price that it gave to the distributor of the vaccine, PT Anugerah Pharmindo Lestari, was different from the market price of the vaccine, which is now available in major private hospitals in the country.

“The vaccine is already available in major cities, as far as Malang and even Jambi. Two leading hospital chains have already bought the vaccine,” Joko said.

The market price of the vaccine is reported at more than Rp 900,000 ($70) per injection, not including tax, and the vaccine has to be given in three injections spaced out over one year.

The vaccine is designed for those over the age of nine and is best suited for people living in endemic areas.