rotavirus vaccine


Fight against top cause of deadly diarrhea, rotavirus, launched today | 

Tom Paulson

No doctor, no medicine at clinic in rural Nigeria

It is a stunning fact that bears repeating:

Diarrhea is one the world’s big killers. Every year, diarrhea is estimated to kill anywhere from one to 2 million people, children mostly — about as many die annually from malaria.

Much of this is due to dirty, contaminated water.

But a major cause of the most severe and deadly form of diarrhea is a bug called rotavirus. Bill Gates has said it was when he read about this virus, or more accurately the stunning number of deaths it causes in poor countries (about 500,000, a half to a third of the global diarrhea death toll), that initially set him on his global health mission as a philanthropist.

Today, a global immunization project (which, not incidentally, was launched by the Gates Foundation and Seattle-based PATH a decade ago) has started expanding access in Africa to vaccines that prevent rotavirus infection.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, GAVI, today announced the first child — in Khartoum, Sudan — to be vaccinated in a new rotavirus immunization campaign that aims to reach millions of vulnerable children in 40 low- or middle-income countries.

“Rotavirus vaccines save children’s lives and our mission is to ensure we get these vaccines to children in Africa and throughout the developing world as quickly as possible. These are the places where rotavirus has the most devastating impact”, said Helen Evans, GAVI interim CEO.

GAVI, as you may recall, recently completed a highly successful fund-raising campaign that has allowed it to expand its portfolio of vaccines to include new vaccines against pneumonia and rotavirus.

Here’s a nice perspective on the rotavirus vaccine roll-out by John Wecker of PATH, one of those who have worked for years to expand access to the vaccine worldwide.


Diarrhea Still Killing Millions, Studies Show | 

Okay, so maybe we have enough studies now. It’s come down to how much money we want to spend to prevent a child’s death.

Diarrhea is a leading killer of children in the developing world, killing anywhere from 1 to 2 million children per year (the numbers tend to run all over the place). This puts diarrhea in the same class as AIDS, TB and malaria though it seldom gets anywhere near the same attention or funding.

A particularly nasty virus known as rotavirus causes the most severe form of diarrheal disease and is estimated to cause half to a third of all cases worldwide.


Rotavirus, by electron microscope

Graham Colm, Wikimedia

This week, the Lancet published two studies done in Asia and Africa showing (again) that vaccination against rotavirus significantly cut the deadly infection rates by about half. If widely distributed in the poorest countries, that translates into preventing at least a quarter million child deaths per year.

The vaccine has been around for a long time and many have long been pushing it as a cost-effective means for reducing one of the world’s leading killers of children.

“No matter where we look in the world, this vaccine has the potential for tremendous public health impact,” said John Wecker, chief of vaccine access and delivery for PATH, who was in Cape Town, South Africa, this week following an international conference focused on defeating rotavirus. Continue reading