Dengvaxia was recently approved by the FDA after being available in other countries since about 2015.
“Indicated for the prevention of dengue disease caused by dengue virus serotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4. DENGVAXIA is approved for use in individuals 9 through 16 years of age with laboratory-confirmed previous dengue infection and living in endemic areas.”
It’s only for people who have already had a dengue infection before?
Unfortunately, Dengvaxia “performs differently in seropositive versus seronegative individuals.”
“In areas of 70% dengue seroprevalence, over a 5-year follow-up, for every 4 severe cases prevented in seropositive, there would be one excess severe case in seronegative per 1,000 vaccinees; for every 13 hospitalizations prevented in seropositive vaccinees, there would be 1 excess hospitalization in seronegative vaccinees per 1,000 vaccinees.”WHO on Questions and Answers on Dengue Vaccines
If you have never had dengue before and you are vaccinated, you are at risk for a severe infection if you do get dengue. On the other hand, if you are unvaccinated, you are at even greater risk of getting dengue, a life-threatening infection. Fortunately, the first episode of dengue is usually fairly mild.
The problem occurs if your antibody levels have dropped enough, which can cause you to have a severe case of dengue the second time. The process is called antibody-dependent enhancement and has to do with antibody levels, either natural or vaccine induced. So it can occur whether or not you are vaccinated, although getting Dengvaxia, an attenuated, live vaccine, can act as a primary dengue infection.
“These differing epidemiological features support the conclusion that antibody dependent enhanced (ADE) dengue disease occurred in seronegatives who were sensitized by vaccine. As hospitalizations continue to occur in all age groups Dengvaxia consumers should be warned that sensitized vaccinated seronegatives will experience enhanced dengue disease into the forseeable future.”Scott Halstead on Dengvaxia sensitizes seronegatives to vaccine enhanced disease regardless of age.
It is something that dengue researcher Scott Halstead warned folks about as soon as he saw the first published study on Dengvaxia.
But why would you need a vaccine if you have already had dengue?
“In humans recovery from infection by one dengue virus provides lifelong immunity against that particular virus serotype. However, this immunity confers only partial and transient protection against subsequent infection by the other three serotypes of the virus. Evidence points to the fact that sequential infection increases the risk of developing severe dengue.”WHO on Dengue control
There are four serotypes of dengue.
So if you aren’t vaccinated, you are at risk to get dengue multiple times.
Tragically, about 800,000 children in the Philippines were given Dengvaxia in a universal immunization program without checking to see if they had dengue first. And it likely led to some severe cases of dengue and deaths. This led to the vaccine being banned in that country and is thought to be one of the causes behind their current measles outbreak, as their Dengvaxia controversy led to more vaccine hesitancy.
And it will lead to more folks getting dengue. Instead of a ban, they should likely be more picky about who they give the vaccine to, either confirming that recipients have already had dengue (titer test) or only giving the vaccine to older kids.
Dengvaxia for Dengue Fever
Do you need Dengvaxia?
Remember, Dengvaxia is only for those living in endemic areas and in the United States, dengue is only endemic in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Do you need Dengvaxia if you are simply traveling to one of these areas?
Since Dengvaxia is not approved for those who haven’t had a dengue infection before, you likely wouldn’t get it just for traveling to an endemic area, unless perhaps you routinely travel to an endemic area and have had dengue already. A titer test can confirm a previous dengue infection, but there is no indication to get vaccinated for travel yet.
Also, while in other countries it is available for use between 9 and 45 years, in the United States, Dengvaxia is only approved for children between 9 and 16 years of age.
More on Dengvaxia for Dengue Fever
- FDA – Dengvaxia
- FDA – First FDA-approved vaccine for the prevention of dengue disease in endemic regions
- WHO – Questions and Answers on Dengue Vaccines
- WHO – Dengue control
- Disease Burden of Dengue in the Philippines: Adjusting for Underreporting by Comparing Active and Passive Dengue Surveillance in Punta Princesa, Cebu City
- Dengvaxia sensitizes seronegatives to vaccine enhanced disease regardless of age.
- Safety issues from a Phase 3 clinical trial of a live-attenuated chimeric yellow fever tetravalent dengue vaccine
- What went wrong with the breakthrough dengue vaccine?
- A problem with dengue virus vaccine
- CDC – Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE)
- Immunity to dengue virus: a tale of original antigenic sin and tropical cytokine storms
- TIMELINE: The Dengvaxia controversy
- Statement on Dengvaxia issued by Global Dengue & Aedes-Transmitted Diseases Consortium (GDAC) with support from International Vaccine Access Center
- Scientists solve a dengue mystery: Why second infection is worse than first
- Philippines FDA Revokes Sanofi’s Product Registration For Dengvaxia; Company Appeals Decision
- Dengvaxia controversy: impact on vaccine hesitancy
- Philippines was gripped by a fear of vaccines. Now there’s a measles crisis.
- NS1, Dengue’s Dagger