South African children may soon be vaccinated against rotavirus, a deadly virus that is the main cause of severe diarrhoea and vomiting in children under the age of six.
This follows the Medicines Control Council’s registration of an oral rotavirus vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
The vaccine’s registration was fast-tracked by the MCC, following an appeal by the company to the health minister.
Rotavirus is a highly infectious disease that causes about 600 000 deaths and 138-million infections a year worldwide, the vast majority in developing countries.
Earlier in the year, the US Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices recommended that all babies be vaccinated against rotavirus.
Although most parents don’t know the name of the virus, almost all children under the age of three who get a high fever, watery diarrhoea and vomiting are infected with rotavirus, according to health experts.
A recent study at King Edward V Hospital in Durban found that almost a quarter of babies who had died from diarrhoea were infected by the rotavirus.
‘We are delighted that the vaccine has been registered, now we are looking forward to making this life-saving vaccine available to all children that need it in the country,’ said Karim El-Alaoui, Vice-President and GM, GSK Pharmaceuticals, South Africa.
According to the company, over 70 000 babies were involved in the development of the vaccine and studies were conducted in Europe, the US, Africa (including South Africa), Latin America and Asia to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
‘These studies have demonstrated that although the vaccine doesn’t prevent children from getting rotavirus, it substantially reduces suffering,’ said GSK spokesperson Dudu Ndlovu.
The company has initiated talks with the Department of Health to ensure that the vaccine reaches all South African children who need it, she added. ‘ Health-e News Service.