UPDATED: Sanofi's Philippine effort marks first public campaign for dengue vaccine

A high-stakes rollout for Sanofi's ($SNY) Dengvaxia dengue vaccine was launched April 4 via a public effort in the Philippines aimed initially at 1 million schoolchildren. 

The Philippines is the first country to embark on a public campaign via the Department of Health and one of four that have approved the vaccine--which includes Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador--in efforts to limit the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. 

In a release, Sanofi said the 1 million students hailed from 6,000 public schools, with prospects to ramp up to 3 million under talks with the government for the two-dose vaccine.

In a telephone interview with FiercePharmaAsia from the Philippines, Guillaume Leroy, vice president of Dengue Vaccine Company at Sanofi Pasteur, said that he expects more public campaigns in endemic countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America where the clinical trials were focused, as well as an unspecified number of regulatory approval among countries pending now within "weeks or months."

"But he stressed that each country program would be based on local details while drawing on a dual plan to vaccinate in areas where the incidence rate is high and where public health efforts to reduce transmission would aid the effort.

"We have to work in-hand with vector control," he said, adding that a complex mathematical model has been developed to assess the right program for a particular country and work with health authorities on the plan to have the greatest impact on incidence going forward.

Sanofi's Dengvaxia plant in Neuville-sur-Saône, France, has the capacity to produce 100 million doses per year for a vaccine that studies showed protected 66% of people aged 9 and older against all four dengue serotypes, and 93% of people against the more deadly severe dengue. It has a documented ability to prevent 8 out of 10 dengue hospitalizations.

Symptoms of the disease range from mild fever to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and a rash--in severe cases, it can prove fatal. 

Private sales of Dengvaxia began in February in the Philippines, a subject discussed on the fourth quarter earnings call in February by Olivier Charmeil, executive VP for vaccines at the French company. 

"The upcoming months are going to be important because we are starting the design of the immunization program with the various countries," Charmeil said. "But so far so good."

Charmeil was also on hand for the launch in the Philippines and hailed the integrated effort at "a disease that continues to represent a major public health threat to their country."

According to figures cited by Sanofi, Asia currently bears 70% of the world's dengue burden, with the Philippines reporting 200,000 cases in 2013.

Sanofi is also the first out of the gate with a vaccine to market, though competitors not too far behind include a candidate from the National Institutes of Health, TV003, that showed protection in a recently released small human challenge study that sets up a potential Phase III trial in the endemic nation of Brazil.

As well, Takeda Pharmaceutical is developing DENVax which may reach the market by the end of the decade for a product initially developed by U.S.-based Inviragen.

- here's the release

Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from Guillaume Leroy.