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New effort to curb child mortality

Government has added a new vaccine to fight mortality among children under five. The Rotavirus Vaccine, aimed at preventing diarrheal diseases, is the latest addition to the country’€™s Expanded Program of Immunisation (EPI).

‘€œThe Rotavirus Vaccine targets the most important cause of diarrheal disease in children under five years of age. When they become infected with rotavirus they develop much more severe diseases. It causes children to be dehydrated and it can cause children to die’€, said Prof Shabir Madhi, Professor of Virology at Wits University.      

The new vaccine, which was introduced on the 1st of August, could go a long way in bringing down child mortality.

‘€œIn South Africa, each day round about four to five children die from Rotavirus’€, said Prof Madhi.  

He went to explain some of the characteristics of the vaccine.

‘€œIt’€™s a vaccine that is given orally. So, unlike your injectable vaccines, the side-effects are much less. Any vaccine has got some sort of side-effect, but the side-effect with regard to Rotavirus Vaccine is really negligible and almost irrelevant in relation to the benefit of actually receiving the vaccine’€, he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended South Africa for its attempts in reducing child deaths.

‘€œThere are many other factors that are contributing to child mortality that are outside child immunisation. But, I think it also needs to be stressed that South Africa is doing a lot and has really made a lot of effort’€, said Dr Bafedile Chauke, WHO National Professional Officer for EPI and Child Health.

Prof Madhi said the addition of the Rotavirus Vaccine, ‘€œfollows the introduction in April of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV), which targets the most important cause of pneumonia, in children under five years of age’€. He said that another addition ‘€œwhich is already being phased in slowly is a combination vaccine, known as Pentaxim and it targets Tetanus, Diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type B, Polio and Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough’€.

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