Vaccine against diarrhoeal disease could protect millions of children – UN

5 June 2009

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today recommended that the vaccination against rotavirus – responsible for over 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually – be included in all national immunization programmes.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today recommended that the vaccination against rotavirus – responsible for over 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually – be included in all national immunization programmes.

Over 85 per cent of deaths caused by rotavirus, which also hospitalizes 2 million children every year, are in developing countries in Asia and Africa, the agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) said.

WHO-backed clinical trials in Africa conducted among populations with high child mortality rates, poor sanitary conditions and high diarrhoeal disease mortality demonstrate that the vaccine significantly reduces severe diarrhoea episodes due to rotavirus.

Rotavirus immunizations just became available in the United States, Europe and Latin America three years ago.

Today’s recommendation paves the way for low-income countries to apply to the public-private alliance known as GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) – including the WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank – for the vaccine.

“This is a tremendous milestone in ensuring that vaccines against the most common cause of lethal diarrhoea reach the children who need them most,” said Dr. Thomas Cherian of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

Due to the many triggers of diarrhoeal disease, SAGE stressed the need to provide the rotavirus vaccine as part of a larger strategy, which must also include improving water quality, hygiene and sanitation, as well as providing oral rehydration solutions and zinc supplements.

 

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