Europe helps fast-track ‘dengue eradication’

For years, West and Central Africa have struggled to tackle a mosquito-borne disease known as dengue fever. But with the rise of more powerful pharmaceuticals and cheaper vaccines, the problem has started to be addressed on a global scale. In a move hailed as historic, the European Union and its member countries are to donate 70 million vaccine doses to low-income nations around the world — helping to eradicate the disease entirely by 2030.

The WHO estimates there are 28 million infections of dengue fever each year, accounting for 100,000 deaths per year. In the last two decades, eight different types of the virus have become endemic to Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with the world’s richest countries likely to have been hardest hit. The devastation caused by dengue fever is not limited to simple illness. In some cases, it leads to organ failure and even death.

“We are not talking about eradication; we are talking about reduction of the incidence of dengue fever,” said Health Minister Carla Alcorta of Portugal in a press release issued by the EU. “But we are aiming at lower rates of infection and illness.”

Through the “Harmonized Voluntary Vaccine Initiative,” countries that have adequate evidence showing a need for immunizations and vaccine technology in their territory will be offered one of three courses of the “inactivated” dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. Depending on the country’s vaccine resistance and mortality rates, these states will receive doses in installments over a three-year period. The vaccine is estimated to be cost-effective at $10 per dose, according to ScienceDaily.

Germany has also pledged to donate 9 million doses of Dengvaxia to help fund the funding and distribution of vaccine to 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, while Norway has signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil to distribute 2 million doses of Dengvaxia over five years.

“The disease is not something that we are used to,” Jean-Claude Borgeaud, WHO regional director for the African region, told the AFP news agency. “The risk of infection is beyond the level of concern, if we start to intervene and in line with the available evidence.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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