Rotavirus vaccine ‘could save millions of lives’
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A vaccination campaign to combat rotavirus in the world’s poorest countries could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, according to a pair of studies published this week.
Around the world, more than half a million infants and children die each year from rotavirus infection, a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under the age of five, with more than half of the reported cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
The studies published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine found that vaccination campaigns in Malawi and South Africa reduced the rate of rotavirus infections by 61.2 percent during the first year of life, while another campaign in Mexico saw diarrhoeal disease rates drop by over 65 percent.
In industrialized countries, the vaccine is part of a standard paediatric immunization protocol.
“We now have another powerful weapon to add to our armamentarium to combat diarrhoeal deaths — rotavirus vaccines,” John Hopkins University health professor Mathuram Santosham wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies’ results.