Studies show swift impact of rotavirus vaccines

Reuters, Monday 24 Jan 2011

Vaccinating against the diarrhoea causing rotavirus, which kills more than 500,000 children a year, is shown to reduce transmission as well as incidences of the virus

Countries that vaccinate babies against rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhoea and kill in days, have significantly reduced the number of children admitted to hospitals with the disease, a report showed on Thursday.

Data from the United States, Australia, Mexico and El Salvador, where rotavirus vaccines have recently become part of routine childhood immunizations, show steep and swift falls in the number of children under five becoming ill with the virus.

The studies published in a supplement to The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, also show large reductions in rotavirus disease among older, unvaccinated children, suggesting that vaccination of babies may also limit the overall amount of virus transmission, giving what is known as "herd immunity."

He said these findings should compel policymakers and international donors to support and implement World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to introduce rotavirus vaccines in all countries as soon as possible.

Diarrhoea is one of the top two killers of children under five worldwide, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in children. Each year, rotavirus-related diarrhoea kills more than 500,000 children and is the cause of many millions more needing hospital treatment.

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