Philippines' immunization program for Sanofi's Dengvaxia set to start in April

Sanofi's ($SNY) Dengvaxia is set for a wide rollout in the Philippines, making the endemic nation the first to implement an immunization campaign utilizing the dengue fever vaccine.

The country--which saw the most cases in the Western Pacific last year at more than 200,000--plans to immunize 1 million schoolchildren in vulnerable regions starting in April; the vaccinations will occur over the course of one year. Lyndon Lee Suy, Health Department spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal the nation has set aside $73.5 million to cover the program. The children will each receive three doses 6 months apart.

During Sanofi's fourth-quarter conference call earlier this month, executives said the first million Dengvaxia doses had been shipped to the Philippines, adding that the pharma is in discussions for 3 million more at €20 per dose. Sanofi's Dengvaxia plant in Neuville-sur-Saône, France, has the capacity to produce 100 million doses per year.

The move by the Philippines is the first of several expected large-scale Dengvaxia immunization programs to come, which could prove important as Sanofi seeks to gain traction with its high-stakes launch. In Sanofi's year-end financial reports, executives said that 2016 will be a year of transition as Sanofi shifts from largely seeking approvals in the first half--it now has four--to helping establish vaccination campaigns in the second half.

Sanofi's Guillaume Leroy

In January, program head Guillaume Leroy said the company is in discussions with individual nations on campaign strategies, adding that those will likely vary country to country. Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador have also approved the vaccine, and Sanofi has applications out in 16 other endemic nations. Later stages of the launch, Leroy said, will include markets such as the United States and Europe.

The Philippines participated in Dengvaxia's clinical testing during all three phases.

- here's the WSJ story

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