PAHO in Early Talks with Takeda Over Dengue Vaccine Prices

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April 20 (Reuters) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is in preliminary talks with Japanese drugmaker Takeda (4502.T) over potential orders of its dengue vaccine, PAHO’s director said on Thursday, though it has yet to decide whether it will recommend the shot.

“The data is really very impressive,” PAHO director Jarbas Barbosa told a news conference, citing a study that found Takeda’s recently developed QDENGA shot prevented 61% of dengue infections and 85% of severe cases.

Now approved by regulators in Brazil, Indonesia and the European Union, the shot follows Sanofi’s (SASY.PA) Dengvaxia. However, Dengvaxia’s use was scaled back considerably after Sanofi disclosed in 2017 it increased the risk of severe dengue in children who had no prior dengue exposure.

While the flu-like viral disease is mostly mild, some people can develop life-threatening complications and there are no antivirals or specific treatments. Some 20,000 to 25,000 people, mostly children, are estimated to die each year from the virus.

Barbosa said that while a World Health Organization strategy group would likely discuss potentially recommending the vaccine in the second half of this year, PAHO had already begun initial talks with Takeda on the price.

If larger countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Colombia combine purchases through PAHO’s revolving fund, it would give them leverage to lower prices, he said.

PAHO officials also warned that misinformation about vaccines, which surged during the coronavirus pandemic, impacted the take-up of other vaccines such as for polio and measles.

PAHO immunization adviser Margherita Ghiselli said the Caribbean, where the pandemic hit its health infrastructure, was especially vulnerable as people are increasingly reluctant to immunize their children and as tourism raises the risk of imported diseases.

Barbosa warned of wealthy families not immunizing their children believing they were less at risk than poorer children – though they can also contract life-threatening disease.

“Vaccinating children protects them, and the other children in that community,” he said.

Reporting by Sarah Morland
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