WHO expert committee to release recommendations on Dengvaxia by yearend

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to release recommendations following the dengue vaccine controversy before the year ends, the former Health Secretary  said Tuesday.

Growing concern about health risks linked to the vaccine Dengvaxia have left the public stumped on whether to finish the initially recommended three doses.

Former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said she recommends recipients finish the dosage — but she also pointed out that the international organization had the final say.

"We don't know really what happens with the dengue vaccine, that's why we defer to the opinion of the experts," Ubial said on CNN Philippines' The Source.

The WHO on its website gathers frequently asked questions and answers about the controversial vaccine.

"We expect to release a further detailed Q&A on the use of the vaccine before the end of the year, as well as an update of the position paper in 2018," WHO said in a website post dated December 10.

The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) released its findings, but the organization's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) has yet to issue its advice.

"[SAGE] will come up with the recommendation of whether to continue or to stop" administering the doses of Dengvaxia, Ubial said.

Initial findings from the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety were unable to come up with a conclusion on how "seronegative" children those who have not yet contracted dengue should proceed.

"It is... not possible to determine if incomplete vaccination would lead seronegative subjects to a higher or lower risk of severe dengue as compared to seronegative subjects who have received the full 3-dose course," a statement by the global advisory committee said.

Dengvaxia was administered to over 800,000 Filipino students in a school-based government immunization program last April 2016. Sanofi Pasteur later announced the vaccine had potential severe dengue risks among those who had not contracted the disease before. The ensuing panic prompted the Health Department to suspend its program and the Senate to investigate the P3.5 billion spent on it.

READ: Timeline on the Dengvaxia controversy

The GACVS statement recommended ensuring lower exposure to dengue risk, as well as continuous medical care if vaccine recipients start showing symptoms of dengue.

This was also recommended by former WHO official and Health Undersecretary Susan Mercado, who called on community clean-up efforts to stamp out breeding grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Related: Former health official pushes for clean-up efforts in response to Dengvaxia scare