RotaFlash: Rotavirus vaccine update

January 27, 2012

Zambia launches multifaceted attack to combat rotavirus and other causes of diarrhea

Innovative partnership rolls out comprehensive program to prevent and treat diarrheal disease

Diarrhea is the third biggest killer of children under five years of age in Zambia (40 per day; 15,000 each year), and rotavirus, the most common cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in young children, is responsible for nearly a third of those deaths. As in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest rates of rotavirus mortality worldwide, rotavirus contributes heavily to the tremendous drain on the health and economic resources in Zambia:

Vaccines are the best way to protect children in Zambia and the rest of the world from severe rotavirus diarrhea and the deadly dehydrating diarrhea that it causes.

Rotavirus vaccines play an essential and lifesaving role in comprehensive diarrhea control strategies and are already saving lives and improving health in the countries where they are in use. A coordinated approach that combines rotavirus vaccines with other prevention and treatment methods, including oral rehydration therapy, zinc, breastfeeding, improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as proper nutrition, will achieve the greatest impact on diarrheal disease morbidity and mortality.

Earlier this week, an innovative, multisectoral partnership between the Zambian Ministry of Health (MoH), the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), and Absolute Return for Kids (ARK) launched the Programme for Awareness and Elimination of Diarrhoea (PAED) to strengthen Zambia’s capacity to provide comprehensive diarrheal disease prevention and treatment strategies, including the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in the capital, Lusaka, to reduce the huge number of child deaths from diarrhea.



PAED’s coordinated approach to addressing the substantial burden of diarrheal disease in Zambia includes:

  • Vaccinating 84,000 children in Lusaka, Zambia, against rotavirus by the end of 2012 with a goal of eventually vaccinating more than 700,000 Zambian children against rotavirus by 2015.
  • Training more than 500 health workers to administer vaccines, oral rehydration therapy, zinc, and other diarrheal disease health interventions.
  • Providing community-level education on diarrhea treatment and vaccination, and other prevention strategies, including proper hygiene, handwashing, nutrition, and exclusive breastfeeding.

PAED hopes that the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in Lusaka and the scale-up of health worker training and community-level education will provide the MoH with the implementation and public health experience necessary to expand its program and vaccinate all Zambian children. Zambia is a GAVI-eligible country, and the MoH aims to work with GAVI to support its nationwide introduction and sustained use of rotavirus vaccines.

In addition to the contributions of CIDRZ and ARK to PAED, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support PAED’s monitoring and evaluation efforts, and GlaxoSmithKline has donated vaccines for PAED’s Lusaka rotavirus vaccination program in 2012.


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.

Other photo courtesy of Hassan Nasser, GlakoSmithKline

PATH - A catalyst for global health

Mail: PO Box 900922 | Seattle, WA 98109 USA
Street: 2201 Westlake Avenue, Suite 200 | Seattle, WA 98121 USA
Tel: 206.285.3500 | Fax: 206.285.6619 |