Amid the onslaught of one of the worst dengue outbreaks, hope may finally be on the horizon in the form of Qdenga, a dengue vaccine developed by Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is working to procure the vaccine, which was recommended by the World Health Organisation on 2 October, DGHS Director General Dr ABM Khurshid Alam told The Business Standard on Tuesday.
Health experts also urged for the swift import of the recommended vaccine. Dr Jahidur Rahman, assistant professor of virology at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, told TBS, "The Ministry of Health previously stated that no dengue vaccine was approved by the WHO. But given the recent approval of the Takeda vaccine, the ministry must swiftly import it into the Bangladeshi market.
"The vaccine would reduce the severity and mortality of dengue patients."
During a briefing in Geneva on 2 October, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recommended that the Qdenga vaccine be introduced to children aged 6-16 years who live in areas "with high dengue disease burden and high transmission intensity".
In this regard, Dr Jahidur said, "In our country as well, the mortality rate from dengue is higher among this age group [6-16]. When children are affected by dengue, the risk increases. Therefore, this vaccine will play a crucial role in preventing child mortality from dengue."
Dr Jahidur said the Qdenga vaccine was effective against the Den-2 variant of dengue and had the advantage of requiring only two doses, making it more affordable than existing options.
On the issue of price, he emphasised that not all vaccines need to be provided for free by the government.
"If the government grants approval for importation, people could purchase the vaccine for their children," he said, noting that parents already buy vaccines for influenza and rotavirus from paediatricians' chambers.
"Merely killing mosquitoes is not enough to prevent dengue; vaccination is also necessary. With two dengue vaccines available in the market, Bangladesh needs to plan accordingly," he added.
According to DGHS data, there have been 27,088 reported cases of dengue in this age group.
Qdenga should be administered in a two-dose schedule with a three-month interval between two doses. Qdenga is already approved in Europe, the UK, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia and Thailand.
Earlier, research conducted by the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and the Society of Virologists indicated an increase in dengue cases in Bangladesh, particularly related to the dengue Den-2 variant.
A DGHS official, wishing not to be named, told TBS that an urgent meeting was held at the DGHS yesterday afternoon on controlling dengue. In that meeting, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and the Larner College of Medicine of University of Vermont, USA, discussed the overall collaboration to expedite the phase three trial of another dengue vaccine TV005.
"The Prime Minister's Office coordinated a special committee to control the coronavirus pandemic. A plan has been taken to form such a committee for dengue. There is a central committee to review dengue deaths. However, the DGHS has ordered the formation of a new death review committee in hospitals to find out the cause of death quickly," the official added.
For the first time in the country's history, the death toll from dengue rose to 1,030 this year.
So far, the DGHS has recorded 2,11,683 dengue cases and 2,01,455 recoveries this year.
September has so far been the deadliest month for the dengue outbreak this year with 396 fatalities and 79,598 cases, according to DGHS data