World’s first dengue vaccine now available in PH

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(File photo) Health authorities said the vaccine will have side effects, including fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, redness and swelling.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines steps up the battle against dengue.

The country hosted on Thursday (February 11) the global launch of Dengvaxia, the world’s first vaccine against the deadly virus.

The Philippines is the first country where the vaccine will be made commercially available.

Related: PH approves first anti-dengue vaccine in Asia

According to a study by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, the vaccine is expected to reduce dengue cases in the country by over 24 percent in a span of five years.

The number of dengue cases in the country spiked from around 120,000 in 2014 to over 200,000 in 2015.

Related: Dengue cases in Metro Manila, Cavite on the rise

Despite the sharp increase in dengue cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said there was no corresponding increase in the number of deaths--with 598 in 2015 compared to 465 in 2014.

The DOH estimated that some 220 Filipinos a day may be infected by the disease.

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Dengue costs billions of taxpayers money because of its public health impact. The average cost of treatment for dengue is at more than P18,000 per patient.

The government has a P3.5 billion budget for the dengue immunization, and the DOH said it will work towards getting approval for funding.

DOH Spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy explained, "We need to come out with a good documentation ng lahat ng nangyayari so we can appeal it sa susunod na budget hearing para maipasok at dapat tuloy-tuloy ito."

[Translation: We need to come out with a good documentation of all events so that we can make an appeal on the next budget hearing, so they can include it and make sure the funds continue to come in.]

DOH: Vaccine has side effects

Health Secretary Janette Garin earlier said the agency would get a discounted price for the vaccine that would be used in the vaccination program starting March.

The DOH will begin vaccinating Grade 4 students in public schools in Metro Manila, and in Southern and Central Luzon. The vaccine will be given in three doses, with six-month intervals.

It will give the vaccine to over a million students this year but the health department is planning to hold a nationwide vaccination on 2017.

Related: DOH intensifies anti-dengue campaign

20 years in the making

It took the multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur more than 20 years to develop the vaccine with clinical trials in five Asian and five Latin American countries where dengue is endemic.

The vaccine was launched in the Philippines since it was the only country where all three phases of the clinical development were conducted.

Health authorities said the vaccine will have side effects, including fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, redness and swelling.

The DOH also said that the medical breakthrough is no excuse to stop the fight against dengue. Communities should work towards prevention by cleaning possible mosquito breeding sites. 

CNN Philippines’ Pia Bonalos contributed to this report.