The Philippines has ordered an investigation into the vaccination of over 730,000 children for dengue, following an announcement by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi that using their vaccines might worsen the disease in some cases.
A non-government organization in the country said that it had received reports of three children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia in April 2016 and died, but Sanofi has said that there have been no deaths so far, Reuters reports.
Ruby Dizon, medical director at Sanofi Pasteur Philippines, said,
As far as we know, as far as we are made aware, there are no reported deaths that are related to dengue vaccination.
The Philippines’ Department of Health stopped the use of Dengvaxia last week after Sanofi said use of the vaccine must be strictly limited as there is evidence showing how it can make dengue worse in people who have not been previously exposed to the disease.
Sanofi further explained these findings, but added that the long-term safety evaluation of the vaccines had fewer hospitalizations because of dengue vaccination in people over 9 years old, compared to patients who had not been vaccinated.
Close to 734,000 Filipino children over the age of 9 have received one dose of the vaccine as part of a nationwide program costing 3.5 billion pesos or $69.54 million.
The Department of Justice on Monday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the “alleged danger to public health…and if evidence so warrants, to file appropriate charges thereon.”
There has been no indication that health officials were aware of any health risks when they immunized the children.
The World Health Organization said in July 2016 that dengue “vaccination may be ineffective or may theoretically even increase the future risk of hospitalized or severe dengue illness in those who are seronegative at the time of first vaccination regardless of age.”
Sanofi Manila said that 19 licenses were given for Dengvaxia, which was launched in 11 countries.