Health Experts Discuss How To Prepare For Future Dengue Immunization Programs

AsiaOne examines how groups are working to prepare policy makers for the availability of a dengue vaccine in the future, following a three-day meeting on the virus held in Singapore this week (Chan, 12/3).

“Dengue v2V, a group of international public health experts in dengue and immunisation programmes, held its first regional workshop … 2010 to discuss the pathway for supportive public health policy for the introduction of a dengue vaccine in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to a press release by the organization. “The workshop examined aspects of the burden of dengue and the potential obstacles to vaccine introduction, providing considerations for constructing a road map for the implementation of dengue vaccination programmes as soon as a vaccine is available” (12/2).

During a conference on Thursday, Lam Sai Kit, chairman of Dengue v2V and University of Malaysia’s professor emeritus, told participants he expects a dengue vaccine to be commercially available within five years, AsiaOne writes (12/3).

“A dengue vaccine is widely anticipated to be the cornerstone of controlling dengue in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet, vaccination programmes are complex to implement and it is critical that we anticipate the challenges ahead of us,” Lam said, according to the press release. “We call on the immunisation community, public and private sector to prepare to initiate dengue immunisation programmes as soon as a vaccine is licensed.”

Reuters writes that Lam “called for better surveillance of the disease and its burden so that funds may be made available when a vaccine is finally available.” According to the news service, the WHO “estimates there are 50 million dengue infections worldwide each year. Among these are 500,000 severe cases – what is known as dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF). There are about 22,000 deaths annually, mainly among children,” Reuters writes.

While “[d]engue used to be a disease primarily among young children, … almost anyone is now susceptible and infection numbers have shot up because of urbanization and the constant movement of people – conditions that allow the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the virus, to thrive,” the news service adds.

“People must monitor the situation properly otherwise you never realize the severity of the problem or the disease burden,” Lam said, according to the news service. “Unless you are aware it is a problem and back it up with statistics, there is no way the government will consider (paying for) vaccination,” Lam added.

The article also examines growing concerns among health experts that treating dengue “will become more difficult in the future as more people around the world become overweight and obese,” because those conditions exacerbate the disease’s symptoms (Lyn, 12/3).

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