Ethiopia and GAVI Alliance begin vaccinating children against rotavirus

GAVI Alliance announced on Thursday that Ethiopia would immediately begin vaccinating children against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea and is often fatal.

Ethiopia accounts for 6 percent of all rotavirus-related deaths globally. The country is the 17th to introduce the rotavirus vaccine with support from the GAVI Alliance.

GAVI Alliance CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said few things have a greater affect on public health than vaccines.

"Rotavirus vaccine offers the best hope for preventing the deadly dehydrating diarrhea caused by this disease and preventing thousands of deaths of young children in Ethiopia," Berkley said.

Dr. Admasu Kesetebirhan, Ethiopia's minster of health, said rotavirus is responsible for two-thirds of more than 38,500 children under five who die from diarrhea in Ethiopia each year.

"Providing rotavirus vaccines to our children and integrating them with appropriate diarrheal disease control interventions will further support our efforts to reduce child mortality," Kesetebirhan said.

Ethiopia has expanded its facilities nationwide and deployed health workers to provide immunization services across the country.

"Ethiopia has a policy of reaching the hard-to-reach parts of the country and focusing on prevention of disease, health promotion and transferring responsibility to individual families," Kesetebirhan said.

Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea in children under the age of five, and kills more than 450,000 children each year.