Dengue vaccine is now available

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians can now protect themselves against dengue by getting vaccinated.The Drug Control Authority recently approved the first dengue vaccine for use in the country.

Manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Takeda, the vaccine named Qdenga protects against all four dengue virus serotypes. It is particularly effective against the serotype-2 virus (DENV-2), which is currently the dominant viral strain in Malaysia.

Results from the vaccine’s phase III clinical trial show that it had prevented 80.2% of symptomatic dengue cases, at one year after vaccination.

It had also prevented 90.4% of hospitalisations at 18 months after vaccination.

dengue vaccine is now available

Takeda Malaysia and Singapore country general manager Dr Lynette Moey said, “If you see a table with 10 people, eight out of 10 of them would have experienced the efficacy of the vaccine.

“And at that same table, nine out of 10 of them need not go to the hospital because of serious disease.”

The latest available data shows that the vaccine still protects 84.1% of people against hospitalisation and 61.2% against symptomatic dengue. The data was collected four-and-a-half years after the trial participants had received their vaccines.

Currently, Qdenga is available at selected private clinics and hospitals throughout the country.

Responding to a question about the cost of the vaccine, she said that each healthcare facility would determine the price they would charge.

The vaccine can be taken by those aged four years and older. “This wide age range allows us to extend protection to a larger group of eligible Malaysians, including children, adults and even senior citizens,” Dr Moey said.

The vaccine can also be safely taken by those who have not had a prior dengue infection.

This was an issue with the first dengue vaccine licensed for use in 2015 in a number of countries.

It was found that this vaccine, produced by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, actually increased the risk of hospitalisations and severe dengue disease in those who had not previously been infected at the time of vaccination.

Dengue Prevention Advocacy Malaysia chairman Prof Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail explained, “The second dengue infection is invariably more severe than the first – it’s caused by two different serotypes.

“If you get the vaccine, that will be considered as the first infection, which is not severe.

“If you get infected by a second infection, that is the one that causes severe disease. That is what happened with the previous vaccine.”

However, the consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist said that this effect showed after two years of the previous vaccine being administered.

“This vaccine (Qdenga) has been tested for four-and-a-half-years and there have been no red flags as far as this is concerned.

“So it is quite hopeful and I don’t think we will see it,” he said.

The vaccine is administered by injection and is given in two doses, three months apart.

According to Takeda India and South-East Asia Medical Affairs head Dr Goh Choo Beng, there are currently no plans or data to support the need for a booster shot.

He said that any side effects from the vaccine were common ones related to vaccines and are mild in nature.

These include pain and redness at the injection site, mild fever, headache, muscle pain, feeling unwell and general weakness.

Dr Moey, Prof Zulkifli and Dr Goh were all present at the official launch of Qdenga in a hotel here yesterday.

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