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Rotavirus vaccine introduced in Rwanda

May 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM   |   Comments

KIGALI, Rwanda, May 26 (UPI) -- Rwanda is set to vaccinate children for rotavirus, the leading cause of diarrhea-related deaths in developing countries, officials say.

More than 3,000 Rwandan children die every year from diarrhea and more than 1,200 children die worldwide each day from rotavirus infection, Voice of America reported Friday.

"Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea. In fact, in Africa, 40 percent of children who are hospitalized for diarrhea have rotavirus. And therefore it's a major killer causing a lot of the child mortality that still exists on the continent," said Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance, a Geneva-based public-private health partnership.

"Rwanda of course is a country that has enormous attention to public health. It's done a very good job. They have an immunization rate that's greater than 95 percent. But they still have children that die of diarrhea and particularly rotavirus. The expectation is that about 3,500 Rwandan children die every year from rotavirus diseases, accounting for close to 10 percent of all the under 5 deaths," he said.

Rwanda is the latest in a number of developing countries to introduce the rotavirus vaccine as part of its immunization program, which also includes a vaccine for pneumonia, the second biggest killer of children under 5, the news report said.

"We're in the process of trying to get this out to all of the countries. So since 2006, 28 GAVI eligible countries have been approved to receive it. And so we're trying to scale-up even more than that although obviously it takes time to get it out to all the countries and some are more prepared than others," Berkley said.

Berkley said parents in developing countries, unlike in developed nations such as the United States, there is a huge demand for the vaccines by parents who want them for their children.

"The interesting thing of course in these countries everybody sees these diseases around them all the time. They've lost relatives to these diseases, friends, family members and so when these vaccines rollout in these countries there tends to be an enormous demand from the population for them," he said.

Topics: Seth Berkley
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