Health ministry launches rotavirus vaccine

The health ministry says the rotavirus vaccine, which fights diarrhoea in children, is now available at most health centres for children under five.

Rumbidzai Ruzvidzo
Rumbidzai Ruzvidzo

“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 Christopher Tapfumaneyi, the principal director Curative Services at the launch of the vaccine.

“The rotavirus 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. 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 diarrhoea.

“Rotavirus hospitalisations occur mostly in young children. Those 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 emphasised the importance of access to clean water as a strategy of reducing the transmission of the disease, saying “Good sanitation and access to clean water does greatly reduce the rate of infection.”

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.

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