How was the First Vaccine for Chikungunya Approved?
Context: On November 9, the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.
The vaccine has been developed by European vaccine manufacturer Valneva and will be available under the brand Ixchiq, and has been approved for administration in people who are 18 years or older, and are at increased risk of exposure to the virus.
About Ixchiq Vaccine
- Ixchiq is administered as a single dose by injection into the muscle.
- It contains a live, weakened version of the chikungunya virus and may cause symptoms in the vaccine recipient similar to those experienced by people who have the disease.
- Safety evaluated in clinical studies with about 3,500 participants. Commonly reported side effects consist of headache, fatigue, muscle and joint discomfort, fever, nausea, and tenderness at the injection site.
- Evaluated based on immune response data from a U.S. study in individuals aged 18 and older.
- Effectiveness demonstrated through the level of antibody known to be protective in non-human primates.
- It is a viral infection (CHIKV) transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes and has been described as “an emerging global health threat.”
- The WHO fact sheet says Chikungunya is prevalent in Africa, Asia, and the Americas; but sporadic outbreaks have been reported in other regions.
- Since 2004, outbreaks of CHIKV have become more frequent and widespread, partly due to viral adaptations allowing the virus to be spread more easily by the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
Symptoms of Chikungunya
- Chikungunya, is characterised by severe joint pain and impaired mobility, and comes with fever.
- The joint pain is often debilitating and varies in duration; it can last for a few days, but also be prolonged over months.
- Other symptoms include joint swelling, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
- While severe symptoms and deaths from chikungunya are rare and usually related to other coexisting health problems, it is believed that the numbers are generally underestimated, because chikungunya is often misdiagnosed as dengue or zika, as symptoms can seem similar.
Prevention and Control
- As of now, there is no cure, only symptomatic relief, with analgesics to help with the pain, antipyretics for the fever, rest, and adequate fluids.
- Prevention includes mosquito control activities, primarily falling under public health outreach and routine civic maintenance.
- Individuals are also advised to use medicated mosquito nets and ensure that there is no water stagnation in any containers at home, in order to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.
This approval addresses an unmet medical need and is an important advancement in the prevention of a potentially debilitating disease with limited treatment options.
Hopefully, inspired by the fast-track pathway drawn up by research into COVID, this approval will fast track the roll out of vaccines in countries where chikungunya is more prevalent, including Brazil, Paraguay, India (as per the National Centre for Vector Borne Diseases Control, India had 93,455 suspected chikungunya cases until September in 2023), and parts of western Africa.
Imp for: UPSC Prelims, UPSC GS Mains Paper III
Topic: Chikungunya, Health, Vaccination, Science & Technology
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