PARIS (AFP) - The first-ever vaccine against dengue fever, which affects up to 400 million people per year, has been cleared for use in Mexico, French manufacturer Sanofi said on Wednesday.
"It's a very important moment in the history of public health," Olivier Charmeil, head of the company's vaccines division, told AFP, describing Dengvaxia as the "innovation of the decade".
This vaccine could potentially become "a blockbuster" and generate more than a billion dollars in revenue for the French pharmaceutical company, Charmeil added.
It took 20 years and more than €1.5 billion (S$2.3 billion) in research and development to create Dengvaxia.
Until now, scientists have been stumped by dengue which is caused by four separate viruses acting in concert.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says dengue has become the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease, with as many as 400 million people infected every year.
It can trigger a crippling fever, along with muscle and joint pain, and there is no known cure.
The deadliest form of the disease kills 22,000 people per year, the WHO says.
Over the past half-century, dengue has become endemic in more than 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries, thanks largely to rapid urbanisation.
Sanofi Pasteur has requested authorisation to push the vaccine in 20 countries.
"We are waiting for more registrations in Asia and Latin America in the coming weeks," said Charmeil.
Several million doses of the vaccine are ready to ship, and Sanofi expects annual production to reach 100 million doses by 2017.
A stockpile for the European Union will be shipped in early 2016 and in the United States a year later.
Clinical tests - carried out on 40,000 people from 15 countries - have found Dengvaxia can immunise two-thirds of people aged nine years and older, rising to 93 per cent for dengue hemorrhagic fever, reducing the risk of hospitalisation by 80 per cent.