Don: Push for dengue field tests

The Health Ministry should go ahead with actual field tests for a proposed vaccine for dengue as trials show that it can reduce hospitalisation by 67%, Asia-Pacific Dengue Vaccine and Vaccination Steering Committee chairman Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit said.

He said that actual field tests were important to see how the vaccine worked and how the community accepted it.

“Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had said that the ministry was still undecided if they wanted to introduce the vaccine as it only gave an overall protection rate of 56%,” he said in a statement.

He added that the figure was based on clinical trials done on Asians by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur.

“Instead of focusing on the overall protection rate, the ministry should also consider that the trial results showed there was a reduction of 67% for hospitalisation and prevention of severe dengue by 88.5%

“Similar tests were also done by the company on Latin Americans and there were no serious adverse events in both trials,” he said.

Dr Lam added that a study conducted by Universiti Malaya Medical Centre in collaboration with Brandeis University – a US private research university – in 2012 showed that the economic burden of dengue in Malaysia came to about RM360mil a year.

“Until September this year, we had a total of 74,335 cases with 143 deaths. Imagine how much the country could have saved if the vaccine was already being used.

“The World Health Organisation has set a target to reduce the risk of dengue mortality by 50% and morbidity by 25% by 2020, and the present vaccine fulfils the criteria,” he noted.

He added that instead of waiting, the ministry should push for the field tests and focus on patients aged between 25 and 30, as most local dengue deaths involved this age group.

It was reported on Nov 27 that the Health Ministry would carry out in-depth research on the dengue vaccine before distribution.

/theSTAR 02-12-2014

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