The World Health Organization says Sanofi's dengue vaccine should be administered in "a much safer way." More specifically, the shot should only be given to people who've contracted dengue in the past.
Sanofi said back in November 2017 that people who have never had dengue were at risk of developing a more serious disease if they get the shot.
After a meeting this week, WHO's independent vaccines group said it now has evidence that, indeed, the vaccine should only be used "exclusively or almost exclusively in people who have already been infected with dengue."
A test must be developed for doctors to immediately determine a person's dengue history, or lack thereof, according to the health agency. However, WHO admits that this approach isn't straightforward, as Associated Press reports.
For starters, there are significant challenges in implementing the vaccine through this approach, according to WHO, but the organization is confident this will bring about the development of a faster diagnostic test.
Dengvaxia Controversy In The Philippines
Dengue remains one of the biggest issues in the Philippines, given the recent controversies surrounding Dengvaxia. Its safety and efficacy are currently being questioned, in light of hospitalizations among children who have been given the vaccine.
WHO researchers say they're fully aware of what's happening in the Philippines, and they've been advising regional offices and monitoring the situation. The country's government suspended use of Dengvaxia last year following widespread health scares. In February, the Philippines said the vaccine could be linked to three deaths: they died even after receiving Dengvaxia shots.
People who contract dengue more than once are at risk of developing a hemorrhagic variant of the illness. This disease, caused by mosquitos and common in tropical climates, causes flu-like symptoms that can result in joint pain, nausea, rash, and vomiting. Severe cases of this disease may induce problems with breathing, organ failure, and even death. 20,000 people, most of them children, die each year from dengue-related complications.
The global increase of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades, according to WHO. Half of the world population is now at risk. Severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries.
It is estimated that around 500,000 people with severe dengue require hospitalizations each year, and about 2.5 percent of those affected ultimately die.
There is no specific cure for dengue, and apart from Dengvaxia, no other licensed vaccines exist.