In a landmark decision, US health authorities granted approval on Thursday for the world's inaugural vaccine against chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus labeled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an "emerging global health threat."
The green signal comes as a crucial step in combating the virus's spread, especially in regions where it is most prevalent.
Developed by Europe's Valneva, the vaccine, named Ixchiq, has been authorized for individuals aged 18 and over who face an elevated risk of exposure, as per the FDA's announcement.
The vaccine, administered in a single dose, contains a live, weakened version of the chikungunya virus, following the standard approach of other vaccines.
Clinical trials, involving 3,500 participants in North America, reported common side effects such as headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, fever, and nausea. Serious reactions were documented in 1.6 percent of Ixchiq recipients, with two cases requiring hospitalization.
The FDA's approval is anticipated to expedite the vaccine's deployment in countries grappling with the highest incidences of the chikungunya virus.
Spreading to new geographical areas
However, the FDA noted, "Chikungunya virus has spread to new geographical areas causing a rise in the global prevalence of the disease," with more than 5 million cases reported in the past 15 years.
Peter Marks, a senior FDA official, emphasized the severity of the virus, saying, "Infection with chikungunya virus can lead to severe disease and prolonged health problems, particularly for older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions."
Chikungunya, known for causing fever and severe joint pain, primarily affects tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Americas.