Vaccines are absolutely necessary to ward off disease and infection in this world’s evolving chemistry. In a January report, significant reductions in rotavirus have been evident within two years of the vaccination’s introduction into a culture.

Although preventable rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrheal disease in youth, which leads to sever dehydration, and in turn has killed over 500,000 children under age five annually and places millions more in hospitals worldwide. Most children in the world will contract rotavirus by their third birthday, and children in developing countries more often die from the terrible diarrhea caused by rotavirus because treatment for severe infections is often limited or inaccessible.

According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary:

“Rotavirus is a group of RNA viruses (family Reoviridae) wheel like in appearance, which comprise a genus, Rota virus, which includes the human gastroenteritis viruses (a major cause of infant diarrhea throughout the world). Separated into groups A through F, rotaviruses can infect a number of vertebrates. They are fastidious, and in vitro culture is difficult.”

However the power of a vaccine is obvious. In the United States, there was up to 86% reduction in rotavirus-related hospitalizations over three years following vaccine introduction in July 2006. In Australia, the vaccine was introduced in 2007 and saw up to a 94% lowering of rotavirus-related hospitalizations in children under five years of age living in Queensland.

In more impoverished countries the decline was dramatic as well. El Salvador has seen hospitalization rates decline by up to 81% in two and a half years following the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in October 2006. Mexico saw the vaccine arrive within its borders in May 2007 and a 40% decrease of child diarrhea related hospital check-ins were reported in 2009.

PAHO deputy director Dr. Jon K. Andrus comments on the impact of the vaccine in South America:

“PAHO’s [Pan American Health Organization] decision to prioritize investment in rotavirus vaccines is paying off for our children. The evidence is clear; immunization against rotavirus is one of the best ways to protect millions of children from severe, and often fatal, diarrhea.”

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states:

“These studies add to the growing body of evidence that shows rotavirus vaccines are safe, effective, and most importantly, saving children’s lives. Unfortunately, too many children around the world get severely ill or die from this preventable disease. We must continue to expand our efforts to ensure that children around the world have access to these vaccines.”

Dr. John Wecker, director of the Vaccine Access and Delivery Global Program, PATH continues:

“Wherever we look, in both the developed and developing worlds, we see a rapid and impressive reduction in rotavirus infections following the roll-out of vaccine. Vaccine effectiveness often takes years to document; with rotavirus, there is an immediate dramatic impact, one which should compel decision-makers and donors to support and implement the WHO recommendation to introduce rotavirus vaccines today.”

In 2009 WHO recommended that all countries include rotavirus vaccines in their national immunization programs.

Helen Evans, interim chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance comments on the vaccine’s accessibility and impact on third world demographics:

“Rotavirus vaccines have enormous potential to save lives, and it is tragic that they are not more widely available to the children who need them most. We urgently need to get these life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries.”

GAVI has committed to supporting rotavirus vaccine introduction in at least 40 of the world’s poorest countries by 2015. The Alliance is seeking approximately US $4 billion from donors to fund the purchase of the vaccines and for other life-saving interventions.

In a curious phenomenon, there have been large reductions in rotavirus disease among older, unvaccinated children, suggesting that vaccination may limit the overall amount of virus transmission, thereby indirectly protecting the larger population. This is commonly referred to as “herd immunity.” Vaccination acts as a sort of firebreak or firewall in the spread of the disease, slowing or preventing further transmission of the disease to others. Unvaccinated individuals are indirectly protected by vaccinated individuals, as the latter will not contract and transmit the disease between infected and susceptible individuals.

Hence, a public health policy of herd immunity may be used to reduce spread of an illness and provide a level of protection to a vulnerable, unvaccinated subgroup. Since only a small fraction of the population (or herd) can be left unvaccinated for this method to be effective, it is considered best left for those who cannot safely receive vaccines because of a medical condition such as an immune disorder or for organ transplant recipients.

Source: The Pediatrics Infectious Disease Journal

Written By Sy Kraft, B.A.