The first-ever vaccine against dengue fever, which affects up to 400 million people per year, will be publicly available for the first time after being cleared for use in Mexico, French manufacturer Sanofi said Wednesday.
"It's a very significant 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" & generate more than a billion dollars in revenue for the French pharmaceutical company, Charmeil added.
It took 20 years & more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in research & development to create Dengvaxia.
Until now, scientists have been stumped by dengue, which has four separate strains.
The World Health Organization 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 & joint pain. There is no known cure & children are at particular risk.
The deadliest form of the disease kills 22,000 people per year, the WHO says.
It was once considered a disease of the tropics endemic in only nine countries.
But globalisation, urbanisation, climate alter & jet travel are helping it to move into more temperate zones & it is now endemic in more than 100 countries.
The WHO says cases have risen 30-fold over the last 50 years, & more than half of the world's population is at risk from the disease.
Sanofi Pasteur has requested authorisation to roll out the vaccine in 20 countries.
"We are waiting for more registrations in Asia & Latin America in the coming weeks," said Charmeil.
Several million doses of the vaccine are ready to ship, & Sanofi expects annual production to reach 100 million doses by 2017.
A stockpile for the European Union will be shipped in early 2016 & 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 & older, rising to 93 percent for the more severe form of the disease, dengue haemorrhagic fever.
It was moreover found to reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 80 percent.