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Saving Lives: A New Rotavirus Vaccine

An Indian company has created a new rotavirus vaccine that could save more than 500 children a day. Rotavirus, a diarrheal disease and the leading cause of death for children under five, kills 200,000 children each year, especially the Middle East and Africa.

Rotavirus causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea. A more serious potential symptom is dehydration. This contagious virus is spread through the fecal matter, and basic handwashing helps prevent infection.

Doctors Without Borders tested the new vaccine in Niger, and it had an effectiveness rate of about 66 percent. The vaccine is in the process of becoming approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccine, currently in use in India, can be used worldwide once approved. The WHO recommended in 2009 that all nations around the world have a vaccination program for rotavirus.

Rotavirus affects both children and adults in developed and developing countries. However, there are more strains of the rotavirus in developing countries. This makes it more difficult for children in developing countries to build immunity to the virus.

Created in 2006, the two vaccines most commonly used in the U.S. for rotavirus are Rotarix and RotaTeq. Rotarix is given to children at two and four months of age, while RotaTeq is used for children at two, four and six months. Medical professionals strongly recommend that children get the vaccination by the time they are eight months old.

The new vaccine, which is more cost-effective than current rotavirus vaccines on the market, doesn’t require refrigeration for months. These two benefits make the vaccine especially effective in villages in developing countries, where access to electricity or refrigeration may be unavailable.

The new rotavirus vaccine will save many lives, especially once approved for widespread use.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr