Reported on: May 28, 2012 13:42 PM
Reported in: Health
May 28 - Rwanda today accelerated its fight against rotavirus, the primary cause of deadly diarrhea in young children, when it became the fourth African country to introduce new rotavirus vaccines only recently made available to developing countries.
Rotavirus is the primary cause of diarrhea in children. In Rwanda, diarrhea accounts for approximately 23% of child deaths.
"Rotavirus is a threat to children everywhere in the world, but in countries where children often lack access to treatment for the severe dehydration rotavirus can cause, the disease can be a death sentence," said Dr. Mathuram Santosham, co-chair of the Rotavirus Organization of Technical Allies (ROTA Council).
"We applaud Rwanda for taking this important step, and expect that it will have a significant impact on the lives and health of Rwandan children."
Nearly 50% of all rotavirus deaths occur in Africa, where access to treatment is limited or unavailable.
Improvements in water quality and sanitation that stop many bacteria and parasites do not adequately prevent the transmission of rotavirus.
"Once again, Rwanda has demonstrated tremendous leadership in the fight against the leading childhood killers," said Dr. Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Co-chair of the ROTA Council.
"They have set an example for other countries on the African continent - and throughout the world - to follow."
In April 2009, Rwanda became the first country in the developing world to introduce pneumococcal vaccines into its routine vaccination program, showing that the country continues to be on the leading edge of vaccine introductions on the African continent.
Thanks to this step, local officials indicate that pneumococcal deaths have dropped, and diarrhea has replaced pneumonia as the second-leading cause of child death in Rwanda after neonatal mortality.
Initial doses of the vaccine are being donated and the subsequent, nationwide rollout will be supported by the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership aiming to accelerate access to key vaccines in developing countries.
By 2015, GAVI plans to support the introduction of two life-saving rotavirus vaccines in 40 developing countries, giving those countries a choice of vaccines to implement into their national programs.
Studies show that vaccination in GAVI-eligible countries from 2011 to 2030 would prevent an estimated 2.46 million childhood deaths.