By Dr. Dagna Constenla
Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is a painful and sometimes fatal disease spread by the bite of a mosquito. Patients that get dengue fever often have painful headache, skin rash and debilitating muscle and joint pains. In some cases, it can lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma and death. Though early and effective treatment can ease symptoms, there is no specific cure available for dengue. Because the mosquito bites all day and can breed even in small bits of stagnant water, efforts to control dengue by preventing bites and breeding are often expensive and provide limited relief.
A vaccine is coming though. After more than 60 years, the development of dengue vaccines has accelerated dramatically. Today, several vaccines are in various stages of advanced development, with clinical trials currently underway on five candidate vaccines. Trials in the most advanced stages are showing encouraging preliminary data, and the leading candidate could be licensed as early as 2015.
Controling dengue by preventing bites and breeding is often expensive and only provides limited relief. A dengue vaccine could prevent illness and change the disease landscape in Latin America and beyond. Photo: CDC/James Gathany
But unlike a new iteration of an existing vaccine, this is uncharted territory. How do we predict its use? Its cost? Cost-effectiveness? Its affordability? How will countries introduce it? To lay the groundwork for the vaccine's eventual introduction, experts from the Latin America and Caribbean region are gathering in Baltimore on March 6-8, 2012 not only to ask questions, but to develop guidelines and standards for costing dengue so that over the next decade, local, and regional decision-makers will have access to robust information on the true cost of dengue in endemic countries of the region.
As a core partner in the Dengue Vaccine Initiative, the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins University is pleased to be hosting this workshop in partnership with the Pan-American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF). For 3 days, more than 15 experts in health economics and epidemiology will work to assess the current evidence of dengue economics research, identify methodological strengths and weaknesses of this evidence, and foster consensus, where possible, on the best way to conduct dengue economics research.
In order to make this work valuable to the entire Latin American region, the guidelines and outputs from this workshop will be made available in Spanish, Portuguese and English on the internet in the months ahead. And then the real work begins. Putting these guidelines to use so that we can improve the evidence-base for decisions in Latin America on how to use dengue vaccines.
Dr. Dagna Constenla is the Director of Economics & Finance at IVAC.