Reducing infant mortality: Global challenges to developing and implementing rotavirus vaccines
Twelve months ago Rotavirus vaccines were introduced into the National Immunisation Program in Australia.
“This marks a great step forward to the reduction in disease in children and the 10,000 hospital admissions to Australian hospitals each year due to rotavirus gastroenteritis,” said Professor Julie Bines Inaugural Victor and Loti Smorgan Chair of Paediatrics, Department of Paediatrics, the University of Melbourne.
Every year millions of young children are affected from severe diarrhoeal disease that hampers their growth and development. Rotavirus infection is the major cause of severe dehydrating gastroenteritis and is responsible for over 500,000 deaths in children under 5 years each year.
Commercial rotavirus vaccines are now provided to all Australian children from two months of age. However, there are many challenges to providing these vaccines to the millions of children in areas where it is needed most.
Tonight Professor Bines will present Australian achievements so far and what the future holds for reducing infant mortality in the third world.
In 1973 Prof Ruth Bishop, Dr Ian Holmes and colleagues from the Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne discovered the Rotavirus. The discovery remains one of Australia’s greatest contributions to global child health.
Scientists at the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital have worked tirelessly for over 3 decades to understand how rotavirus infection causes such devastating illness and have played a key role in the development of vaccines to prevent rotavirus disease
Bines says that recent results from the US are very encouraging with a delayed onset and marked reduction in the magnitude (less than 50%) of rotavirus infection reported following the first year of rotavirus vaccine introduction.
“If these results can be replicated in developing countries this will be a major leap forward in preventing child deaths,” Professor Bines said.
Key points to cover include
- 10.8 million children under that age of 5 years die each year, 98% in 68 of the world’s poorest countries with the disparity between developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa widening over the past decade
- Only 11% of global health expenditure is spent on health in 90% of the world’s population
- In 2000 the U.N. Millennium Development Goals were adopted to provide a global response to problems of hunger and poverty. It is now halfway towards 2015 the time targeted to achieve these goals. Although some progress has been made the reduction in child mortality has been slow and in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa this trend has worsened.
(Source: Reducing Infant Mortality; global challenges to developing and implementing rotavirus vaccines: University of Melbourne: July 2008)