, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 19 – One child dies every minute in Africa because of Rotavirus associated diarrhoea, which is preventable through vaccination, a health workshop has been told.
The workshop, composed of leading scientists, paediatricians and policy makers from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America, asked African Governments to introduce the rotavirus vaccine in their respective countries’ national expanded programmes for immunization (EPI) for children.
In Africa, only South Africa boasts of national child immunization for the Rotavirus disease, a programme that started this month.
Head of Rotavirus at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Dr Zipporah Gatheru said on Wednesday that though the vaccine has been in Kenya since 2006, it is only available to a few elite.
During the one-day workshop in Nairobi, Dr Gatheru said that a majority of rural based Kenyan families can afford the vaccines but do not have access to them, and nor do they have information on the vaccine and the disease.
In a press release, Dr Gatheru said a third to half of child cases presented to the hospitals have Rotavirus and encouraged mothers to take their children to hospitals for the vaccine, which is applied orally.
Speakers at the African Rotavirus Expert Working Group (AREWG) workshop sponsored by drug manufacturer GSK said that African Governments should partner with international funding agencies to ensure that the vaccine is available in their national EPI programmes.
“We therefore came up with a call to action which in a nutshell, is to convince key decision makers on child health issues that Rotavirus and diarrhoea in general is big in Africa. That every opportunity must be taken to deal with Rotavirus especially now that we have a vaccine,” said Prof Fred Were, the Chairman of the Kenya Paediatrics Association (KPA).
Dr George Armah from Ghana said that in Africa, one out of every four children attending hospital is infected with Rotavirus. He said half of those admitted have the disease with one death every minute reported from cases of admission.
A delegate from Chile, Prof Miguel O’Ryan said estimates around the world showed that every child would suffer from the Rotavirus disease before they turn five years old.
Prof O’Ryan said that one out of five children would see a doctor because the Rotavirus associated diarrhoea is significant enough for the mother to see the doctor; while one in every 60 or 70 children are hospitalised because of dehydration.
“Deaths due to the disease because of dehydration occur in one in every 250 to 300 children before their fifth birthday especially in Africa, Asia and the poor countries of Latin America,” he said.
The one-day workshop was held to share scientific information available on the disease and review possibilities of utilising available preventive strategies now that a Rotavirus vaccine is now available.