July 19, 2018, 6:03 am
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The tragedy of Dengvaxia

DR. Scott Halstead, the American expert on dengue came to the Philippines to testify early this week: “(I) warned Sanofi back in 2016 on the health risks of Dengvaxia, having published two articles in 2016 suggesting that blood tests [to check for dengue virus in the body] must first be given.”

If the blood test shows the presence of dengue virus in the body, Dengvaxia may help; believed to give less severe future dengue illness. If the blood test shows no dengue virus in the body [never been bitten by a dengue mosquito] Dengvaxia is dangerous. It should not be given, Sanofi was told. Dengvaxia vaccine worsened symptoms for those who had no previous dengue virus in their system.

When Sanofi sold P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia to the Philippine DOH, Sanofi forgot to warn the buyer of the mandatory blood test in Dr. Halstead’s warning. The DOH forgot to ask for the usual drug Literature listing contraindications of which Dengvaxia had a few; for instance, Dengvaxia not to be given to anyone who’s not well, sick; no matter what ailment.

Dr. Halstead even sent a video of Antonio Dans, a health expert, hoping that it could be presented during a Senate hearing that same year, 2016. “Sanofi was aware of my study because the company responded, and even published an answer -- Sanofi said that they did not think there is enough data. And the contention of Sanofi is that there are more people benefited than hurt. I was quite astonished and upset that this mass immunization [in the Philippines] is going forward.” -- Dr. Halstead.

Dr. Halstead had suggested in 2016 that blood tests, available in the market, be given first to persons before being inoculated with Dengvaxia. Dr. Halstead said Dengvaxia is dangerous for those who have not been infected with dengue virus. Dengvaxia should be given only to
those that the blood test found to already have dengue virus in their bodies. There are a few other contraindications ignored by Sanofi, but I am out of space to enumerate all.

You may have no dengue symptoms even if a biting mosquito may have left dengue virus in your body. Quiet and dormant, under control, by your robust, healthy body. Your present strong immunity and resistance leaves dormant the dengue virus in your body. That blood test will still show that your body has been infected with dengue virus. It will be safe for you to be administered with Dengvaxia. If you get bitten by a dengue mosquito again, your illness will not be too severe.

(Just like tuberculosis, which a lot of people may have dormant in their systems, but with good health and strong immunity, these people show no TB symptoms.) 

This negligence and oversight of Sanofi, as told by Dr. Halstead, bolsters the government’s case against the French pharmaceutical company, and against health officials of the previous Aquino administration.

Below, reprint of my column back then when Sanofi was unheard of, and Dengvaxia was nonexistent:

Malaya, October 19, 2011: “I was at a conference of the Health Sciences Division of the National Academy of Science and Technology, NAST. In the agenda: genetically modified mosquitoes (GMM) to control dengue.

“A dengue vaccine approved for human use is not yet available, we learned. Scientists, here in the Philippines are working on a vaccine, according to Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research & Development (PCHRD). He introduced Drs. Anthony James and David Brown, project manager, both from the Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California.

“Other presenters and organizers of the event: Dr. Luke Alphy, chief scientist, Oxitec Ltd., Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK, and Academician Quintin L. Kintamar, Mercedes Conception, Luningning Samarita-Domingo, Executive Director; Nelia Salazar, Biologist and Dr. Remigio Olveda, Director, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Dept of Health and Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, Director, Biotech, U.P.

“This GMM control of dengue mosquito is the follow-up technology to the successful control of malaria. GMM produced sterile male offspring, thereby controlling the malaria mosquito population.

“On dengue, scientists used GMM to produce female mosquitoes with wings too weak to fly. Mosquitoes mate in flight. Unable to fly, the female mosquitoes are grounded and die from starvation and predators, without reproducing. The flightless female mosquitoes cannot be dengue-carriers since they cannot fly to find dengue-infected blood. And even if it had a chance to bite into a dengue-infected victim, the scientists tell us that grounded, they can no longer fly to bite and pass on dengue virus.

“We must wait to hear further on the GMM and what good news it will bring to this dengue-plagued country.” End of my October 19, 2011 column.


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