Health ministry launches rotavirus vaccine

The health ministry today launched the rotavirus vaccine, which fights diarrhoea in children.

The vaccine which is now available at most of the country’s health centres is administered in children under five years.

Speaking on behalf of the health minister, David Parirenyatwa, Christopher Tapfumaneyi, the principal director Curative Services in the ministry of health said the introduction of the virus improved children’s health in Zimbabwe in line with the fourth millennium development goal: that of reducing infant morbidity and mortality.

“There has been a remarkable improvement of vaccination coverage from 28 percent DPT3 in 1982, 89 percent in 2006 and 95 percent in 2013,” said Tapfumaneyi.

“The introduction of rotavirus on May 1 this year is considered as an effective strategy to prevent rotavirus disease and has been proven effective and efficient in all countries that introduced it.”

Rotavirus causes vomiting and severe diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and death and children aged six months to two years are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Tapfumaneyi said 9 out of the 10 countries with the highest rate of rotavirus mortality were in Africa while globally, 453, 000 deaths in children under five were due to rotavirus diarrhea.

“Rotavirus hospitalisations occur mostly in young children and children under one year of age account for the majority of all childhood hospitalisations. It accounts for 230, 000 deaths among children in Africa,” said Tapfumaneyi.

He however emphasised the importance of access to clean water as a strategy of reducing the transmission of the disease.

“The virus is primarily transmitted by faecal oral route and therefore good sanitation and access to clean water does greatly reduce the rate of rotavirus infection,” said Tapfumaneyi.

Two years ago, the Zimbabwean government, with assistance from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, an organisation which supports the acquisition of vaccines by low-income countries introduced three new vaccines – pneumococcal, rotavirus and Human Papilloma Vaccines.

However, when the country submitted its funding proposal to GAVI, one of the conditions was for Zimbabwe to expand its drug storage facilities.

The pneumoccocal vaccine was introduced in 2012, but the rotavirus vaccine could not be introduced because there were no adequate storage facilities.

In a speech read on his behalf, UNICEF Representative, Reza Hossaini commended Zimbabwe for the progress made in the vaccination of children under five.

“Vaccination alone is not enough. It should be inclusive of all preventive measures,” said Hossaini, adding that the country should strive to ensure total coverage of all children in terms of vaccination.

According to the country's immunisation schedule, children are supposed to receive the rotavirus vaccine at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks.

Post published in: Health

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