A major new study has shown that rotavirus vaccination reduced infant diarrhea deaths by 34% in Mchinji a central region distrct bordering with Zambia with high levels of child deaths.
The study led by scientists at the University of Liverpool, UCL, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and partners in Malawi provides the first population-level evidence from a low-income country that rotavirus vaccination saves lives.
The findings, published in The Lancet Global Health, add considerable weight to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation for rotavirus vaccine to be included in all national immunisation programmes.
“Malawi had a strong immunisation programme and was very proactive in planning to introduce rotavirus vaccine, which made it possible to scale up coverage rapidly,” reads the report in part.
Ministry of Health chief of health services Dr Charles Mwansambo, who is one of theauthors of tjhe report, described the vaccine as important and that it must reach all children.
“Within about a year from vaccine introduction, we were able to reach up to 90% of the population. It is vitally important that rotavirus vaccines reach all children, especially the most vulnerable living in poorer settings where the impact of vaccination is greatest,” Mwansambo said.
Professor Nigel Cunliffe from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Global Vaccine Research, one of the study leads, said: “Rotavirus remains a leading cause of severe diarrhea and death among infants and young children in many countries in Africa and Asia.
“Our findings strongly advocate for the incorporation of rotavirus vaccine into the childhood immunisation programmes of countries with high rates of diarrhea deaths, and support continued use in such countries where a vaccine has been introduced.”
The vaccine was introduced in the country in 2012 and to determine its impact, researchers carried out a large population birth study of 48 672 infants.