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Jakarta begins testing
new dengue vaccine

Eight hundred children throughout Jakarta are expected to receive doses of a new vaccine starting today (Wednesday), as part of region-wide trials of a new dengue fever vaccine.

Jakarta Health Agency chief Dien Emmawati said the test subjects would receive the shots at five community health centers in Jakarta.

The participating community health centers are in Senen in Central Jakarta, Tambora in West Jakarta, Koja in North Jakarta, Pasar Minggu in South Jakarta and Jatinegara in East Jakarta.

The trial will run five years.

“These community health centers will monitor the children for the next five years through regular health checkups,” Dien said at a press conference Tuesday.

In return, the parents of the children, who are between the ages of 2 and 14 years old, will be reimbursed for transportation costs to the health centers.

For the trial, each subject will receive three shots, with the second injection administered six months after the first.

“Should any vaccine-related health problems occur during the test, the children will receive free healthcare,” Dien said.

Earlier this year, the Jakarta administration approved a proposal by the University of Indonesia School of Medicine and Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital to run the tests in the city.

The two institutions will oversee the trial.

Similar tests will also be conducted in Bandung, West Java, and Denpasar, Bali, where 800 and 400 participants, respectively, will receive the vaccine.

Previously, University of Indonesia health sciences professor Sri Rezeki Hadinegoro, the project’s chief researcher, said researchers from five medical schools in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia had experimented with the vaccine over 25 years.

The current test is the third phase in the vaccine testing involving humans. The first test was performed on a limited number of soldiers and the second phase was conducted on a small number of children. The third phase of the test will take place simultaneously in the five countries.

Dien said the results from the previous two stages indicated that the vaccine was safe for humans.

“If within the next five years the vaccine is found to be safe for humans, we can start distributing the vaccine to the public,” she said.

The Jakarta Health Agency reports that the prevalence of dengue fever remained high in the city, but the number of cases were decreasing. There were 23,000 cases of the disease reported in 2008, 18,000 in 2009, 18,000 in 2010 and 3,897 cases as of May this year.

Tulus Abadi of the Indonesian Consumers Protection Foundation (YLKI) said the government was obliged to keep the public informed about the progress of the trial.

“The government has to be transparent about the program. The public has the right to know details of the vaccine’s characteristics because this involves human lives,” he said.

YLKI said if the test proved to be successul, the vaccine should immediately be made available for free.

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