Health experts call for regional collaborations to solve dengue problem

MANILA -- Local and international infectious disease specialists on Tuesday called for regional collaborations to address the dengue problem.

In a press conference for the 2nd Asia Dengue Summit 2017 held in Hotel Jen in Manila and hosted by the country, chairman of the Global Dengue and Aedes-Transmitted Diseases Consortium, Prof. Duane Gubler, said they believe in the combined use of new mosquito controls and vaccine to eliminate dengue as a public health problem.

"If we use these tools properly, we can control dengue. So, we need to use the tools coming in the pipeline," said Gubler.

A regional collaboration could work, he said, citing as an example the effort to control yellow fever in the American region in 1946.

"We know that we can do it if we have the dedication and if we do the right approaches," he said in a panel discussion.

"The fact remains that this vaccine, if we use it properly, will decrease transmission. It will decrease epidemic activity, decrease the frequency of the epidemic. It's been shown that it nicely decreases severe disease, it decreases hospitalization and, therefore, it will decrease death," he further said.

Professor of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, Dr. Lulu Bravo, said it would be better if politicians leave to the health experts the evaluation of the safety of the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia.

"We should not put this in the hands of politicians because it is the experts, it is the scientists who have produced the evidences," Bravo said.

"We studied dengue for a long, long time and there are so many issues that are unanswered, even now. But politicians are actually trying to figure out what this science is all about. But it takes time. It takes a lot of analysis to really figure it out."

On the vaccine's adverse effects that were monitored, she said that based on their findings, some were coincidental or not related in any way to the vaccine. They were investigated by a panel of scientists and experts and these were all recorded, she added.

On the vaccine's efficacy, Bravo clarified that the phases of its trials would not have progressed if there were problems at the start and it would not have been approved by the country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Late last year, lawmakers questioned the Department of Health's (DOH) dengue vaccination program that targeted 729,260 Grade 4 students aged nine years old in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon for a three-dose immunization.

As far as they are concerned, the experts said they have not seen any "red flag" over the safety of Dengvaxia.

"We did not see any safety concerns. It is safe. So that's the first key thing. If it's not safe, then it will not go on and on with any trial. But this has been done for many years and the safety is there," said Asian Dengue Vaccination Advocacy chairperson Prof. UsaThisyakorn.

The panel of experts were joined by representatives of other countries who want to learn from the Philippine experience on dengue prevention and control. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency