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WHO prequalifies new dengue vaccine, but Africa still not in the picture

The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week pre-qualified a new vaccine for a mosquito-borne disease called –Dengue, which is mostly reported in the coastal part of Kenya.

This is the first ever dengue vaccine that can be administered to people who have never been infected by the dengue virus.

The WHO prequalification means that the global health body assesses the quality, safety, and efficacy of the vaccine, therefore enabling countries to roll out to its population.

The vaccine, Qdenga (TAK-003), will be the second prequalified Dengue vaccine available in the market following the prequalification of Dengvaxia that is mainly inoculated to people who have had the virus before.

The vaccine was developed by a Japanese pharmaceutical called Takeda and is recommended to children aged between the ages of six to 16 years in areas that are at risk of virus transmission.

It is administered in a two-dose schedule with a three-month interval between the required doses.

“If the second dose is delayed for any reason, it is not necessary to restart the series and the second dose should be administered at the first available opportunity,” the WHO advises.

Dr Rogerio Gaspar, WHO Director for Regulation and Prequalification said Qdenga’s prequalification is vital for the expansion of global access to dengue vaccines since it is now suitable for procurement by UN agencies including UNICEF and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

“With only two dengue vaccines to date prequalified, we look forward to more vaccine developers coming forward for assessment, so that we can ensure vaccines reach all communities who need it,” he said.

Qdenga is a live-attenuated vaccine, which means its composition is made up of weakened versions of all four dengue types (scientifically known as serotypes) namely; DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4.

Kenya, just like most African countries, is yet to roll out the Dengue vaccine to its at-risk population despite dengue cases detection in the continent since the 1960s.

Even so, between 2014 and 2017, Kenya was one of the countries that the Dengue Vaccine Initiative initiated research studies to get data of the disease burden.

Should the vaccine be introduced in the country, there are some sections of the population who are exempted from taking it including; pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers, people living with HIV, or people who were born with a weak immune system.

hshikanda@ke.nationmedia.com

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