U.S. health regulators on Thursday approved the world’s first vaccine against chikungunya, a virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes that the Food and Drug Administration calls “an emerging global health threat.”
The vaccine developed by European company Valneva and marketed under the name Ixchiq is approved for people 18 and older who are at increased risk of exposure, the FDA said.
Ixchiq’s green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to speed up the vaccine’s rollout in countries where the virus is most common.
Chikungunya, which causes fever and severe joint pain, is most common in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Americas.
“However, chikungunya virus has spread to new geographic areas, resulting in an increase in the global prevalence of the disease,” the FDA said, reporting more than 5 million cases in the past 15 years.
“Chikungunya virus infection can cause serious illness and ongoing health problems, particularly in older adults and people with underlying medical conditions,” FDA senior official Peter Marks said in a statement.
“Today’s approval addresses an unmet medical need and represents an important advance in the prevention of a potentially debilitating disease with limited treatment options.”
The vaccine is injected in one dose and contains a live, weakened version of the chikungunya virus, as is common with other vaccines.
Two clinical trials involving 3,500 people were conducted in North America. Headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, fever and nausea were commonly reported side effects.
Serious reactions were reported in 1.6 percent of Ixchiq recipients in the trials, two of whom required hospitalization.
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