Health officials in the Philippines have approved a vaccine for use against dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease that has hit the country hard.
The approval of the vaccine Dengvaxia by the Philippines' Food and Drug Administration comes after substantial tests which showed the vaccine to be 70 percent effective in protecting against all forms of the disease, the country's Department of Health said.
Against the most serious and deadly form of the disease -- dengue hemorrhagic fever -- the success rate was even higher at 93 percent, health officials said.
The Philippines is the second country to approve Dengvaxia, after Mexico, and India is reportedly considering its approval for use as well.
About 400 million cases of dengue fever are confirmed around the world each year, with infection rates rising dramatically in the last few years and spreading to dozens of countries.
In Hawaii, a recent spike in cases between Sept. 11 and Dec. 13 say the number of confirmed diagnoses reached 180.
Dengue fever causes severe flu-like symptoms, including high fever, joint or muscle pain, headaches, rashes and nausea. Although seldom fatal, it can be dangerous in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
In the Philippines, the new vaccine developed by French company Sanofi Pasteur, has been approved for use in people between the ages of 9 and 45.
"This is the age range wherein most of the dengue cases are being reported, particularly in endemic countries here in Asia," said Dr. Joselito Santa Ana on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur.
"The approval of Dengvaxia in the Philippines will be a critical addition to the ongoing public-education and vector-control efforts now directed towards dengue prevention in our country," he said.
In development for 25 years, the vaccine has been submitted for approval and licensing in 18 additional countries in Latin America and Asia, which are reviewing their regulatory processes.
Sanofi says annual production of the vaccine could reach 100 million doses by 2017.
"[This represents] a historic milestone for our company, for the global public health community and, most importantly, for half the world's population who live at risk of dengue," said Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt about the approval of Dengvaxia in Mexico and now in the Philippines.
Brandicourt says the intention is to first market the vaccine, which cost $1.5 billion to develop, in countries where the disease is endemic and "a major public health threat," to be followed by Europe and the U.S.