Drug Company Under Fire After Revealing Dengue Vaccine May Harm Some



Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious illness skilled at Vanderbilt College, mentioned, “It’s laborious to consider one other circumstance when a serious public well being program was launched with this a lot controversy.” The issues with the vaccine rollout have “forged a pall” on different efforts to develop dengue vaccines, he mentioned, and public well being consultants are fearful that the mistrust may spill over to different vaccination applications.

“Vaccines have loads of controversy,” Dr. Schaffner mentioned. “We don’t must make extra.”

Sanofi has mentioned that the chance to individuals who get the vaccine remains to be extraordinarily small. Furthermore, in those that have beforehand been contaminated, the vaccine works properly: In folks older than 9, it’s about 66 % efficient.

However that has not allayed fears within the Philippines, the place Sanofi has mentioned 10 % of the kids who have been vaccinated in all probability had no prior publicity to the virus.

Dr. Su-Peing Ng, the pinnacle of medical affairs of Sanofi Pasteur, the corporate’s vaccine division, mentioned in an interview that “there isn’t a trigger for alarm,” including, “these vaccinated in high-exposure settings are far more protected than those that weren’t.”

The World Well being Group, which printed tips on easy methods to use the vaccine in 2016, has distanced itself.

“We didn’t give a blanket suggestion that the vaccine must be launched,” mentioned WHO’s consultant within the Philippines, Dr. Gundo Weiler. “It is a determination for governments and governments alone.”


From left, Thomas Triomphe, a regional Sanofi official; Jannete Garin, a former Philippine well being secretary; Francisco T. Duque III, the present Philippine well being secretary; and Paulyn Ubial, one other former well being secretary, throughout a Senate listening to in Manila on Dec. 11.

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Ted Aljibe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Photos

Dengvaxia was first authorized in 2015, and Brazil and the Philippines initiated government-sponsored vaccination campaigns. Brazil’s authorities mentioned it could proceed its program however that it could comply with Sanofi’s suggestion to keep away from vaccinating individuals who have by no means had dengue.

The corporate has instructed buyers that it expects to lose 100 million euros, or about $117 million, on account of diminished gross sales. Sanofi is without doubt one of the world’s greatest pharmaceutical firms, reporting gross sales of practically 34 billion euros in 2016, or practically $40 billion.

Two different dengue vaccines are in late-stage improvement and will threaten future gross sales of Dengvaxia in the event that they present higher outcomes.

“It’s an enormous disappointment and it’s an enormous lesson in humility,” mentioned Michel De Wilde, the previous senior vice chairman of analysis and improvement at Sanofi Pasteur, who oversaw the vaccine’s improvement till he left the corporate in 2013.

The sickness, additionally referred to as breakbone fever, may be excruciating, with excessive fevers, complications, muscle and joint pains and lingering weak point. Generally the illness causes hemorrhage or shock, which may be deadly.

Some lethal instances have been linked to the truth that there are literally 4 several types of dengue virus. Analysis has discovered that extreme sickness can happen in individuals who had one sort and later grow to be contaminated by one other. The physique’s immune response to the primary virus is believed to make the second sickness worse, a discovery credited to Dr. Scott B. Halstead, who has been learning dengue because the 1960s.

In February 2016, because the Philippine program was getting underway, Dr. Halstead warned in a scientific article that the vaccine may put folks in danger if they’d not beforehand had dengue. He mentioned the difficulty was well-known. “We’ve been speaking about this for years,” he mentioned just lately. “It isn’t any hidden secret.”

He and others pointed to a trial of Dengvaxia in youngsters, printed in 2015, that appeared to substantiate fears that the vaccine may very well be dangerous to these with no earlier publicity. The potential hazard just isn’t from the vaccine itself, however from the immune response to it. The researchers discovered that in youngsters below 9 years outdated, those that got Dengvaxia and later caught dengue have been extra prone to be hospitalized for extreme sickness than those that had not been vaccinated.

The discovering initially led Sanofi to limit Dengvaxia to youngsters 9 and older, though the corporate didn’t concede that the upper hospitalization charge amongst youthful youngsters was because of their lack of prior dengue publicity. A panel arrange by the World Well being Group really useful that the vaccine be used solely in locations the place the incidence of dengue was excessive.

Brazil determined to restrict its authorities program to people who find themselves over age 15.

Whilst Sanofi pushed again in opposition to researchers’ warnings in regards to the vaccine’s potential hazards, it ordered one other evaluation of the information.

Dr. Ng, the Sanofi official, mentioned that earlier than the extra evaluation, “there wasn’t a strong manner wherein we may reply that query. It’s solely this new evaluation that has given us this perception.”

The brand new evaluation discovered that lack of previous an infection was tied to an elevated threat of extreme dengue. However the threat was small — two further instances per 1,000 beforehand uninfected folks vaccinated, over 5 years of follow-up. And there have been no deaths reported.

However easy methods to inform if somebody has had dengue? Docs and sufferers can’t at all times inform as a result of signs may be imprecise.

No speedy check exists. Present exams take just a few days to supply outcomes, and should have bother distinguishing dengue from Zika, a associated virus. Attempting to make use of them would additional complicate a vaccination course of that’s already cumbersome, as a result of it requires three visits. Sanofi has mentioned it’ll put money into efforts to develop a greater check.

At a Philippine Senate listening to on Dec. 11, Thomas Triomphe, a regional Sanofi official, emphasised the vaccine’s advantages and mentioned that to completely take away it could depart 90 % of the inhabitants “on the mercy of an epidemic which has been discovered to be preventable.”

However dad and mom really feel they’ve traded one threat for an additional that could be worse. Maria Brenal Bernal mentioned her daughter, Reyna Rose, had been sick on and off since receiving her first shot of Dengvaxia in August.

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