The Grapevine

Brazil Becomes Third Country To Approve World's First Dengue Vaccine

Brazilian Dengue Ad
Brazil becomes the third nation in less than a month to approve the world's first dengue vaccine. Above, a Brazilian PSA educates citizens on the symptoms of dengue, such as fever and intense pain. Agência Brasília, CC BY 2.0

It seems we can add Brazil onto the dengue vaccine bandwagon.

This Monday, the French-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi (and its vaccine branch, Sanofi Pasteur) announced that their vaccine, called Dengvaxia®, received approval from Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). The large nation is now the third to do so within the span of a month, after Mexico and the Philippines.

“This new approval of Dengvaxia® by the ANVISA, a well-recognized and World Health Organization (WHO) certified regulatory authority is an important milestone for Sanofi Pasteur,” said Guillaume Leroy, Vice President of the dengue vaccine team at Sanofi Pasteur, in a statement. “Dengvaxia® has the potential to significantly reduce the dengue disease burden and to help Brazil reach the WHO’s 2020 dengue reduction objectives.”

As previously reported by Medical Daily, Dengvaxia® offers protection against all four of the major disease-causing strains of the dengue virus (a possible fifth strain was recently discovered, but hasn’t been conclusively shown to cause illness).

Dengue, in all its forms, is transmitted by mosquitoes belonging to the species Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, Aedes albopictus. While only one-fourth of dengue infections actually progress to the point of physically making you sick, the disease is still estimated to harm close to 100 million people every year, according to the WHO. Other research has concluded that 3.9 billion people are at risk of contracting dengue. Dengue can range from a flu-like illness to a severe hemorrhagic fever that causes internal bleeding, shock, and can shut organ function.

While surviving infection from one strain of dengue ensures lifelong immunity against that one strain, it doesn’t prevent reinfection from another strain and it actually increases the risk of developing severe dengue should reinfection happen. Though Dengvaxia® only offers a moderate level of protection against contracting dengue — somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent judging from clinical trials — it does appear to dramatically reduce the chances of more severe complications even if you still come down with dengue.  

That’s a boon that Brazil could surely need, since dengue has reportedly infected over 1.4 million Brazilians this year alone, thanks largely to a particularly severe outbreak of dengue earlier this year. Brazil's annual cost in fighting the disease is estimated to be $1.2 billion USD.

“Approval of the first dengue vaccine is an important public health breakthrough with critical importance to our country, which bears the greatest dengue burden in Latin America,” said Joao Bosco Siqueira Jr. of the Department of Community Health, Institute of Tropical Pathology and Public Health, at the Federal University of Goias in Goiania, Brazil. “The 2015 dengue outbreak is still very present in the minds of Brazilians so Dengvaxia®‘s approval is a most welcome addition to our ongoing dengue prevention efforts.”

The vaccine will be approved for people ages 9 to 45 living in endemic areas, following research findings showing it proved most effective in that specific age group. An estimated 70 percent of dengue cases in Brazil occur in people over the age of 9, according to Sanofi Pasteur.

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