A report, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, by the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, shows that routine vaccination against rotavirus is hugely effective in reducing the number of children hospitalised by virus. The study, which focussed on three US counties, saw dramatic decreases in the number of children being admitted to hospital since routine vaccination was introduced for younger children in the United States in 2006.
Focussing on the period between 2006 to 2009, researchers looked at statistics from hospitals in Cincinnati, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee and Rochester, New York, and saw a clear reduction in the number of children treated for gastroenteritis due to rotavirus in 2008 compared with 2006 when the immunisation programme had just begun.Daniel Payne, the study's author said: "Our data confirm that the introduction of rotavirus vaccination among US children has dramatically decreased hospitalisation rates. The reductions observed in 2008 far exceeded what was expected on the basis of vaccine coverage and effectiveness."
Older children not covered by the vaccination programme benefitted too. Because younger children in the same household weren't passing on the disease, hospitalisation rates among older children dropped by a massive 92%.
However, Dr Payne was cautious about the findings, saying: "Continued surveillance is needed to further assess the role of rotavirus vaccination coverage, indirect protective benefits, immunity over time and serotypic variation upon rotavirus activity in the United States."
At a time when some of the major pharmaceutical companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, Johnson & Johnson are cutting the price of their vaccine to the developing world, where up to 50% of cases are fatal, the study could pave the way for similar vaccination programmes. Currently, the cost of a vaccination in the states is $50. In developing countries, it is now expected to be just $2.50.
Rotavirus is a virus transmitted via the faecal-oral route and is common in young children. It damages the cells of the small intestine causing chronic diarrhoea and is responsible for 50% of all hospitalisations from the gastroenteritis. Although it is easily managed once diagnosed, over 500,000 children under the age of five die from the virus every year, mostly in underdeveloped countries.
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