Mexico is the first country to give the go ahead for 40,000 people to receive a new vaccine to prevent the deadly disease. Twenty-two thousand people die from dengue fever every year.
Mexican health authorities gave French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi approval on Wednesday to sell its breakthrough anti-dengue fever vaccine in the country.
Health officials said Mexico would jump ahead of other countries and become the first in the world to license the drug Dengvaxia, initially allowing 40,000 people living in high risk areas, to receive the treatment.
The vaccine will be offered to children over nine years old and adults under 49.
Sanofi’s vaccine chief Olivier Charmeil, described the drug’s approval as “a very important moment in the history of health care”. The company expects Dengvaxia will eventually bring in more than a billion dollars in revenues.
Dengue fever is particularly prevalent in Mexico due to the country’s tropical climate, a breeding ground for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries several diseases that affect humans.
Globally, more than 400 million people are struck down with dengue fever every year, mostly in urban areas of tropical and sub-tropical regions such as Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Around 22,000 people die from the disease annually and children are particularly vulnerable.
Recently, India and China were accused of underreporting the number of dengue cases.
Others to follow
Symptoms of the disease are similar to those of severe flu. In serious cases, it can lead to internal bleeding known as dengue shock syndrome.
Climate change and globalization have helped spread dengue more easily, a disease which the World Health Organization (WHO) says has reached more than a hundred countries.
The race to find a suitable prevention tool has intensified in recent years. It’s been been complicated by the fact that there are four types of dengue virus. The new vaccine can be used to prevent all four types of the virus.
Sanofi says it has been developing the drug for the past two decades and has invested more than 1.5 billion euros.
In the coming weeks, the company expects further approvals for Dengvaxia in other Latin American countries, as well as Asia.
mm/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters)