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Mexico first with dengue vaccination?

Clinical tests have shown success in reducing cases of the fast-growing disease

Vaccination against dengue fever could soon become a reality and Mexico could well be the first country to approve its use.

The French drugmaker Sanofi says its vaccine reduced cases of the disease — sometimes known as breakbone fever — by 60.8% in its second major clinical trial.

Described as the world’s fastest-growing tropical disease, dengue is spread by mosquitoes and can cause high temperatures and intense joint and muscle pain. It is believed to infect some 100 million people every year, most of whom survive, but it does kill an estimated 20,000 people a year, many of them children.

The second and final clinical trial of the drug was conducted on 20,875 children aged 9-16 in five Latin American countries, including Mexico. It provided high protection against dengue hemorrhagic fever and cut by 80% the risk of hospitalization, said the drug firm on Wednesday.

These tests and earlier ones in Asia showed the vaccine acts best as an immune booster for people with previous exposure, so it is seen as being the most useful in tropical regions where the disease is common, rather than a vaccination for tourists.

However, because it reduces the most severe cases by nearly 90%, many people including tourists could see the point in using the vaccine, said Sanofi’s head of the dengue project, Guillaume Leroy.

Sanofi said in July that Mexico, Brazil and Colombia could be the first countries to sell the vaccine, which could be available in the second half of next year.

The head of Mexico’s commission on health risks (Cofepris) said yesterday the vaccine will be approved in the first half of 2015, making this country the first to have it available. Mikel Arriola also said the vaccine’s registration in Mexico would represent “a passport” to the World Health Organization’s revolving fund that provides financial assistance for the purchase of vaccines.

He also noted that process of approving a new product such as the vaccine has been reduced from what used to be three to five years to just 60 days without sacrificing safety.

Sources: Milenio (sp), Reuters (en)

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