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RotaFlash: Rotavirus vaccine update

April 24, 2012

Rotavirus vaccines projected to save more than 2.4 million lives in developing countries by 2030

Special supplement to the journal Vaccine provides critical insights to maximize vaccine impact in low-resource settings

Rotavirus vaccines offer the best hope for preventing severe rotavirus disease and the deadly dehydrating diarrhea that it causes, particularly in low-resource settings where treatment for rotavirus infection is limited or unavailable, according to studies published in the April 2012 special supplement to the journal Vaccine. The special supplement, “Rotavirus Vaccines for Children in Developing Countries,” summarizes data on the performance of rotavirus vaccines to help maximize their impact in developing countries, which stand to experience the greatest overall public health benefit from the introduction of rotavirus vaccines due to their extremely high rates of severe rotavirus disease and death.

Swift and significant declines in hospitalization and deaths due to rotavirus and all causes of diarrhea have been observed in many of the 30 countries that have introduced rotavirus vaccines into their national immunization programs to date. The studies in the supplement provide critical insights on factors that contribute to varying efficacy of rotavirus vaccines in different populations, and add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that rotavirus vaccines are a safe, proven, cost-effective intervention. The GAVI Alliance recently secured a new low price of US$2.50 per dose for rotavirus vaccines, which enables GAVI to respond to developing country demand for this lifesaving intervention.


figure 1. More than 2.4 million lives saved in developing countries by 2030

More than 2.4 million lives saved in developing countries by 2030


Supplement Highlights

Highlights of the findings in “Rotavirus Vaccines for Children in Developing Countries” include:

  • Rotavirus vaccines are highly cost-effective and are projected to substantially reduce child deaths. In GAVI-eligible countries, where 95 percent of deaths due to rotavirus occur, more than 2.4 million child deaths can be prevented by 2030 by accelerating access to lifesaving rotavirus vaccines.
  • Each year in GAVI-eligible countries, use of rotavirus vaccines could prevent an estimated 180,000 deaths and avert 6 million clinical and hospital visits, thereby saving US$68 million in treatment costs annually.
  • Rotavirus vaccines significantly reduce serious rotavirus disease and save lives in rural settings, where children often die from rotavirus infection because access to lifesaving rehydration treatment for severe rotavirus-related diarrhea is limited or unavailable.

“Rotavirus causes more than 450,000 deaths each year in children under five and is responsible for millions of hospitalizations and clinic visits. A better understanding of the science and performance of rotavirus vaccines allows developing countries, which shoulder 95 percent of the global death toll from rotavirus, a vital opportunity to save more lives,” said Dr. Kathy Neuzil, co-editor of the supplement and incoming Director of the Vaccine Access and Delivery Global Program at PATH.

PATH: Maxizming Impact of Rotavirus Vaccines

PATH’s commitment to maximizing the impact of rotavirus vaccines in low-resource settings and accelerating their access to children most in need is longstanding and resolute. First under the GAVI-supported Rotavirus Vaccine Program (RVP) (2003-2009), and now as part of the GAVI-supported Accelerated Vaccine Introduction initiative (2009-present), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported Rotavirus Vaccine Impact project, PATH has been instrumental in the design and conduct of rigorous scientific studies to demonstrate safety, efficacy, impact, and cost-effectiveness of rotavirus vaccines.

Dr. Neuzil, who served as Clinical Director of RVP, provides a first-person account of PATH’s efforts to increase the scientific evidence base to support policymaker and donor decision-making around the acceleration of access to and delivery of rotavirus vaccines.


PATH collaborates on rotavirus vaccine activities with the CDC, WHO, UNICEF, vaccine manufacturers, and countries around the world. RotaFlash is funded by the GAVI Alliance.

For information on rotavirus disease and RotaFlash, please email us. For information on diarrheal disease, please visit DefeatDD’s website. For information on the GAVI Alliance’s support for rotavirus vaccine introduction, please click here.

Banner photo courtesy of One: Living Proof.

Source of Figure 1: Atherly DE, Lewis KCD, Tate J, Parashar UD, Rheingans RD. Projected health and economic impact of rotavirus vaccination in GAVI-eligible countries: 2011–2030. Vaccine. 2012;30(Suppl 1):A7–A14. DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.12.096. Epub ahead of print. (Use by permission, Vaccine is published by Elsevier, which also holds copyright.)


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