WHO committee: More benefits if ex-dengue patients complete Dengvaxia dosage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 25) — It is safe — and even beneficial — for former dengue patients to complete the dosage of Dengvaxia, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert committee said on Friday.

The finding was detailed in a question and answer guide on the controversial vaccine release by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). The guide, posted on the WHO website, includes clarifications for patients who have had an incomplete dosage of Dengvaxia among other frequently asked questions.

For patients who are seropositive, or those who have contracted dengue before, WHO found that a complete dosage is more advisable.

"In documented high seroprevalence settings... there is likely to be an overall benefit to the population if individuals complete the schedule [of vaccinations], hereby assuring protection of seropositive individuals who make up the majority of the vaccinated population," the guide read.

The protective effect of the vaccine is unknown for seropositive individuals who do not complete the three dosages, WHO added.

However, there is still no recommendation on whether or not seronegative patients — those who have not had dengue before — should finish their initially scheduled shots.

"It is also not known if the increased risk of severe disease in seronegative individuals is different according to the number of vaccine doses they have received. Thus, there is no evidence to determine the risk and benefit of completion or suspension of the series in those who have received only one or two doses," WHO reported.

It added that there was no data to determine whether a risk of severe disease lasted beyond five years.

Dengvaxia was administered to over 800,000 Filipino students in a school-based government immunization program last April 2016. Pharmaceutical company 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

WHO advised continuous monitoring by medical professionals, particularly if symptoms of dengue appear. It added that protective measures to avoid mosquito bites should be taken.

Former WHO official Dr. Susan Mercado also challenged the public to engage in community clean-ups in light of the Dengvaxia controversy.

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

The international agency reiterated its interim position towards the vaccine, which was to only administer it to those who had contracted dengue before.

"WHO acknowledges that in high seroprevalence settings, the vaccine can have significant population-level benefits," the post said. "However, until a full review has been conducted, WHO recommends vaccination only in individuals with a documented past dengue infection, either by a diagnostic test or by a documented medical history of past dengue illness."

WHO is expected to release a new position paper on the vaccine by April 2018.