Sanofi Gets Approval For World’s First Dengue Vaccine
The culmination of 20 years of research, the vaccine could help prevent the spread of a mosquito-transmitted virus that nearly half the world’s population is at risk of contracting.
December 14, 2015 | by Sarah Massey, M.Sc.
Sanofi’s Dengvaxia vaccine against dengue fever is the first of its kind to gain approval in Mexico. The culmination of 20 years of research, the vaccine could help prevent the spread of a mosquito-transmitted virus that nearly half the world’s population is at risk of contracting.
According to Olivier Charmeil, head of Sanofi’s vaccines unit, more approvals for the product are expected in Asia and Latin America in the coming weeks. Dengvaxia is effective against all four strains of the dengue virus, which has recently been cropping up in areas like Florida, France, Japan and Portugal.
According to the World Health Organization, many nations are at an increased risk of “explosive outbreaks” of the disease. While both dengue and malaria are transmitted by mosquitoes, the former tends to be a problem in wealthier urban centers in countries in Asia and Latin America.
In response to a water shortage, residents in Sao Paulo, Brazil began storing drinking water in still, open vessels – the optimal breeding environment for the mosquitos. As a result, thousands of cases of dengue have been reported in the region this year.
Hawaii has also been afflicted by an outbreak of dengue, with 139 cases confirmed to be part of an ongoing outbreak. The virus also affects less affluent African nations.
The vaccine has been in development for the past 20 years and cost Sanofi €1.5 billion ($1.65 billion) over that time. While the vaccine is still awaiting approval in 19 other countries, Mexico’s government has encouraged individuals between the ages of nine and 45, to get the vaccination if they are living in high-risk areas.
According to estimates made by Bloomberg analysts, sales of Dengvaxia could reach $1.4 billion by 2020. According to spokespeople from the vaccine developer, Dengvaxia “will be priced at a fair, affordable, equitable and sustainable price.”
Guillaume Leroy, vice president of the vaccine team that developed Dengvaxia at Sanofi, some countries may decide to distribute the vaccine free of charge. The developers say the vaccine is only recommended for people 9 and up because clinical trial results suggest the vaccine is not as effective in young children.
“We are making dengue a preventable disease, which makes us incredibly proud,” said Charmeil. Infection with the dengue virus causes symptoms typical of influenza, which can worsen and potentially be fatal. Some symptoms of the infection include vomiting, bleeding gums, rapid breath, and severe abdominal pain.
The WHO estimates that approximately 390 million people contract dengue each year, with one percent of those resulting in fatalities. Oxitec Ltd. is developing an alternative method to stop the spread of the virus, which uses genetic engineering approaches to alter male mosquitoes so that their offspring die before maturity.
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Keywords: Virus, Vaccine, Sanofi
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