Doctors advocate on behalf of rotavirus vaccination

Experts from the Rotavirus Organization of Technical Allies Council recently advocated for the use of the rotavirus vaccine in children, particularly in the developing world.

Dr. Mathuram Santosham of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-chair of the ROTA Council and Dr. Ciro de Quadros, the executive vice-president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, recently wrote an article entitled "The Case for Childhood Rotavirus Vaccines."

Santosham and de Quadros laud Tanzania for becoming the eighth African country to make the rotavirus vaccine part of its national childhood vaccination program. They said that Tanzania faces multiple competing priorities in terms of what the nation needs to survive and thrive, but has placed fighting rotavirus among its top necessities because of compelling evidence and the work of concerned health professionals.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of childhood diarrhea, one of the leading causes of death among children living in the developing world. Ninety-five percent of rotavirus deaths occur in low-income countries.

The experts wrote that approximately seven years ago, these statistics compelled researchers to conduct a series of trials to help develop a better understanding of how introducing the vaccine affect children across Asia and Africa.

"They found that rotavirus vaccines reduced the risk of severe rotavirus in these countries by more than half during the first year of life, when children are at greatest risk," Santosham and de Quadros said. "And in June 2009, based in part on the findings from these studies, the World Health Organization recommended that rotavirus vaccines be included in all national immunization programs."

The doctors said that advocacy is needed, particularly from scientists and medical practitioners who are in a unique position to accept the challenge because of their firsthand knowledge of how vaccines can impact communities.

"We must commit to redoubling our efforts to ensure the evidence generated through surveillance, clinical trials and impact studies continues to inform how health programs develop so that, no matter where they are born, every child has access to health interventions that work, like rotavirus vaccines," Santosham and de Quadros said.