New dengue vaccine 'not effective enough for Singapore'

Treatment derived from plant seeds also no better than placebo: Vivian

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

This article was first published on Aug 5, 2014

A new dengue vaccine to be marketed by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi next year is "not good enough" for Singapore, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to queries from Members of Parliament on when the vaccine and other new drugs would hit the shelves here.

Dr Balakrishnan, a medical doctor, said the vaccine was not effective enough against the two most common types of the dengue virus here, types 1 and 2. The vaccinated group's risk of developing dengue is reduced by 50 per cent and 35 per cent respectively for types 1 and 2, compared with an unvaccinated group.

"Until further clinical data is available for us to be sure that the benefits outweigh the risks, I don't think the Ministry of Health or Health Sciences Authority will rush into approving the vaccine," he said.

Meanwhile, celgosivir, an anti-viral treatment derived from plant seeds, has not been proven to be more effective than a placebo though it has been found to be safe, Dr Balakrishnan added.

MPs also asked if the fines for mosquito breeding could be scaled based on the risks that the breeding posed to the public. For instance, Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) wanted heftier fines for construction companies found to have mosquitoes breeding on their worksites. Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) suggested that pest control firms that fail to control mosquito breeding at worksites be blacklisted.

Dr Balakrishnan said the ministry would study the suggestions on raising penalties but warned that pinning a case of dengue on a specific incidence of mosquito breeding would be hard.

To date, 62 stop-work orders have been issued and 14 contractors prosecuted this year for allowing mosquito breeding on their premises. The number of weekly dengue cases for July 20-26 was 640, down from a record high of 891 cases at the end of June and start of July.

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