Mexico City / New Delhi: At a time when India is struggling with rising number of dengue cases with each passing year, the Mexican government has approved the world’s first anti-dengue vaccine which is designed to protect people in the 9-45 age group from all four subtypes of the virus.
Called Dengvaxia, the vaccine has been developed by France-based Sanofi Pasteur and is the result of an extensive clinical development programme running for almost two decades.
“Today, with this first marketing authorisation of Dengvaxia, we have achieved our goal of making dengue the next vaccine-preventable disease,” said Olivier Brandicourt, Sanofi’s managing director and chief executive officer, in a statement on Wednesday.
“This is a historic milestone for our company, for the global public health community and, most importantly, for half the world’s population who lives at risk of dengue,” he added.
While dengue affects nearly 400 million people in endemic areas, mostly in tropical and subtropical countries in Latin America and Asia, India saw one of the worst outbreaks of the deadly disease this year with 32 deaths recorded in New Delhi alone till October.
With the total number of dengue cases in the capital reaching over 12,000 in October, Delhi recorded the highest number of patients of the viral disease in 19 years, according to health authorities.
Even as Dengvaxia has become the first vaccine to be licensed in the world for the prevention of dengue, the dengue toll in West Bengal has touched 12 with the last death reported on November 5, according to state health officials.
The disease is prevalent throughout India in most of the metropolitan cities and towns.
According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, there were more than 90,000 dengue cases reported in the country till November this year and more than 180 people died of the disease. Outbreaks have also been reported from rural areas of Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The WHO has called on endemic countries to reduce dengue mortality by 50 percent and morbidity by 25 percent by 2020.
Dengvaxia is, therefore, seen “as major innovation and a public health breakthrough”.
According to a statement issued by the Mexico’s health ministry, the new vaccine is 60.5 percent effective against dengue and 93.2 percent effective against severe dengue treatment.
The approval of Dengvaxia by Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) is based on results from an extensive clinical development programme involving over 40,000 people of different ages, geographic and epidemiological settings and ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds living in 15 countries.
Dengue-endemic regions of Mexico participated in all three phases of the clinical development programmes for the vaccine.
This vaccine can prevent more than 8,000 hospitalisations, 104 deaths annually, and save 1.1 billion pesos ($64 million) each year in reduced costs tied to medical attention, the ministry statement added.
In Mexico, a total of 32,100 cases were registered last year, including 8,668 cases of severe dengue, which cost the country over 3.2 billion pesos ($187 million).
In India, too, a new inexpensive dengue vaccine has been developed by scientists at New Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), which is in animal trial stage. But human trials can start only after its efficacy has been proved.