Rotavirus vaccination for children dramatically decreases hospitalization rates

In a CDC study, vaccination against rotavirus, a major cause of severe acute gastroenteritis in children, led to a dramatic decrease in hospitalization rates for infection among infants in three U.S. counties.

Researchers determined the impact of the vaccine among children hospitalized for vomiting and/or diarrhea in the Cincinnati, Ohio; Rochester, N.Y.; and Nashville, Tenn., areas and found that in 2008, rotavirus hospitalizations among vaccine-eligible children decreased from between 87 and 96 percent.

Routine rotavirus vaccination of U.S. infants began in 2006. Children between the ages of six months and 24 months are eligible for the vaccine.

"Our data confirm that the introduction of rotavirus vaccination among U.S. children has dramatically decreased rotavirus hospitalization rates," Daniel C. Payne of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the study's author said. "The reductions observed in 2008 far exceeded what was expected on the basis of vaccine coverage and effectiveness."

Children too old to have been immunized with rotavirus vaccine also appeared to benefit as there was a 92 percent decrease in hospitalization among the older, unvaccinated children. This may have been as a result of the indirect protective benefits conferred by reduced rotavirus transmission from vaccinated, younger children in the community and household.

"The indirect protective benefits seen in older, unvaccinated children were not observed during the following year, 2009, when rotavirus rates increased disproportionately among this age group," Payne said. "These findings suggest that indirect protective benefits may have provided unvaccinated, older children a single-year deferral of exposure and illness. Continued surveillance is needed to further assess the role of rotavirus vaccination coverage, indirect protective benefits, immunity over time, and serotypic variation upon rotavirus activity in the United States."