A COMMERCIAL dengue vaccine is expected to be available within five years, an international virology expert said yesterday at the conclusion of a three-day dengue workshop held here. University of Malaya’s Emeritus Professor Lam Sai Kit, the chairman of Dengue v2V, a scientific forum dedicated to the introduction of the dengue vaccine, arrived from Kuala Lumpur to discuss potential vaccination strategies and the challenges of implementing them in the Asia-Pacific region.
Over the next five years, v2V will try to convince policymakers of the importance of dengue immunisation. It also aims to collect high-quality data on the number of cases in the world and establish sustainable funding to provide the vaccine. Around 220 million people worldwide are infected with dengue every year. Two million of them, mostly children, develop dengue haemorrhagic fever, a severe form of the disease.
The mortality rate is low, at 1 per cent, but the symptoms are painful and can last for weeks. Up to 4,837 cases of dengue were recorded in Singapore this year as of the middle of last month. As countries around the world – particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region – battle an increasing incidence of dengue outbreaks, the race is on to develop the world’s first vaccine for the disease.
French vaccine giant Sanofi Pasteur is likely to win the race, as it is the only developer that has reached the third and final phase of clinical trials. The trials are being conducted in 10 countries, including Singapore and Malaysia. The trials in Thailand are the ones that have entered the third phase, which tests the vaccine’s efficacy. They will be completed in two years’ time.
Last year, four hospitals here recruited 1,200 people, aged two to 45, to participate in the trial. The participants were each administered three doses of the vaccine, said Associate Professor Leo Yee Sin, clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. When the trial ends in 2013, information on the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity, based on how the antibodies of participants respond to the dengue virus, will be gathered, she said. However, there is often a time lag of several years between the time a vaccine is licensed and the time it becomes widely available, Prof Lam noted.