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Surprising Science

Hooray Science! A New Vaccine Could End Dengue Fever

Dengvaxia is a drug to watch for.

The world’s first vaccine for dengue fever, called Dengvaxia, has just been approved in Mexico after a long 20 years of research. Further approvals are expected within Latin America and Asia in the future. The approval could mark a new era in handling an illness that affects many in tropical locations worldwide.

While dengue fever is often an ailment associated with the developing world, it has shown up in Florida, Hawaii, and some European countries in the past few years. Though rarely fatal, dengue fever causes fevers, headaches, and eye pain, among other symptoms. Hawaii is currently in the midst of an outbreak that has infected over 130 people, reminiscent of a similar outbreak in 2001.

Dengvaxia was created by French-based company Sanofi, which made the decision not to focus on getting the product approved in the U.S. or Europe. Both governments are known to have intense regulations and standards for new pharmaceuticals. Instead, the company will be taking the product directly to the countries that are most impacted by dengue fever and marketing it there. The decision is considered unique among pharmaceutical launches.

Dengvaxia will likely be marketed to middle-class consumers, giving it potential to be a larger moneymaker than other landmark vaccines, such as those in development for ebola and malaria. However, Sanofi has announced that the product will be priced in a “sustainable way” for its consumers, which will be critical to ensuring that Dengvaxia reaches those who need it.

The initial phase of treatment with Dengvaxia is expected to be administered to at least 40,000 people in Mexico. However, the pharmaceutical is only going to be given to those between the ages of 9 and 49, so people outside of that range may have to wait.

It’s been a year of great progress in the pharmaceutical world, and Dengvaxia might lead the way.


Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors.  Follow her on Twitter:@stefanicox


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