More reason to vaccinate: Proof rotavirus vaccine saves lives

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A study published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal provides more powerful evidence of the transformative effect of childhood vaccination — the celebrity critics of it notwithstanding. Researchers in four countries proved that the rotavirus vaccine saves lives.

Worldwide rotavirus is responsible for the death of 500,000 infants and children annually. In poorer nations infected children often die from the diarrhea induced by the ailment.

The study authors looked at rotavirus vaccination in the U.S., Australia, Mexico and El Salvador. In all four countries, dramatic declines in the frequency of hospitalization followed on vaccination campaigns.

In the U.S., the rate of hospitalization from rotavirus infections dropped 58-86 percent over three years. In Mexico during 2009, there was a 40 percent fall-off after an immunization campaign while in El Salvador rates fell 69-81 percent over a 30-month period beginning in October 2006. In Australia the greatest benefit was observed as over two years the frequency of the disease plummeted by 89-94 percent. Researchers said that the vaccination campaigns appeared to be offering “herd immunity” against the spread of the infection, meaning that reduced infection in the whole population tended to protect even those who were not immunized.

If the vaccines could be made more widely available in the developing world, it would be especially helpful, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. However, he says, “You can’t just give money to government officials in poorer countries — the vaccine has to be delivered to the villages with poor roads and little public health oversight.”

ACSH notes that one of of our trustees, Dr, Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was co-inventor of RotaTeq, one of the two vaccines against rotavirus.