The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya, which it sees as an “emerging global health threat”.
The mosquito-borne disease causes fever and joint pains and can be fatal to newborns. The word comes from the African Makonde language and means “bent over in pain.” The new vaccine is named Ixchiq.
The FDA’s approval is expected to speed up the vaccine’s global rollout.
This year, about 440,000 chikungunya cases, including 350 deaths, have been reported as of September.
The vaccine has been approved for those aged 18 and above and are at high risk of contracting the disease, the FDA said on Friday. It was developed by Europe’s Valneva and will be administered in a single shot.
Ixchiq is administered as a single dose by injection into the muscle. It contains a live, weakened version of the chikungunya virus and may cause symptoms in the vaccine recipient similar to those experienced by people who have chikungunya disease.
The safety of Ixchiq was evaluated in two clinical studies conducted in North America in which about 3,500 participants 18 years of age and older received a dose of the vaccine with one study including about 1,000 participants who received a placebo.
The most commonly reported side effects by vaccine recipients were headache, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, fever, nausea and tenderness at the injection site.
At least five million chikungunya cases have been reported since 2008, the FDA said. Other symptoms include rashes, headaches and muscle pain. Joint pains can persist for months or even years.
People in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Americas are at the highest risk of infection because mosquitos carrying the chikungunya virus are endemic in these areas.
“However, chikungunya virus has spread to new geographical areas causing a rise in global prevalence of the disease,” the FDA said.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that Brazil has had the highest number of cases so far this year with 218,613.