PATH is working with partners in India, China, and elsewhere to advance promising new rotavirus vaccines. Photo: Umit Kartoglu.
Bringing crucial protection to children everywhere
Why is diarrhea a leading killer of children less than five years old in the developing world? It doesn’t have to be, especially if these children have access to rotavirus vaccines.
Although dozens of pathogens can cause diarrhea, rotavirus is one of the most common and deadly. The virus is so contagious and resilient that traditional hygiene measures that can prevent many cases of diarrhea—like hand-washing and providing clean water—just don’t work well enough to stop rotavirus on their own. In addition to deadly, dehydrating diarrhea, rotavirus infection often causes severe vomiting, which makes oral rehydration therapy far less effective. And once children in developing countries become sick, care is often too expensive and too far away to reach them in time. For these reasons, vaccination is the best hope for saving their lives.
Rotavirus vaccines are not new. With help from PATH and other partners, they have been protecting children in both developed and developing countries for years. Yet they’re still not widely available or affordable for millions of children.
PATH’s philosophy is simple: all children should have access to safe, effective, and affordable vaccines as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re working on several fronts to accelerate and improve the introduction, use, and development of rotavirus vaccines worldwide.
Increasing access and impact
PATH provides research, information, and technical assistance to help countries sustainably introduce existing vaccines into their national immunization programs. Our support was integral in helping Nicaragua become the first low-resource country to introduce the rotavirus vaccine, dramatically reducing the number of children hospitalized with diarrhea. We continue to make sure children from other countries have lifesaving access.
We’re also exploring ways to make sure rotavirus vaccines work as well as possible once they are in use—for example, by investigating at which age children will benefit most from getting the vaccine and studying how malnutrition and parasitic infections affect the vaccine's ability to provide protection.
Engaging leaders and stakeholders
We are also working to raise awareness of the devastating burden of rotavirus as well as the beneficial public health impact of using rotavirus vaccines.
Through advocacy, research, and communication, we’re helping more people—from parents and caregivers to donors and country leaders—understand the tremendous cost of rotavirus and the lifesaving impact vaccines have. This builds political will, facilitating vaccine introduction. And when countries do introduce vaccines, we’re providing advocacy and communications support to strengthen their work and spark similar efforts in other countries.
Accelerating new vaccines
New vaccines against rotavirus, and a greater number of reliable, low-cost suppliers, are also essential to saving lives. In addition to increasing available supply, new vaccines and suppliers mean more competition, which will help make all of the rotavirus vaccines on the market more affordable.
PATH collaborates with emerging-country vaccine manufacturers to develop new candidates into safe, effective, and affordable rotavirus vaccines. We work closely with these companies in clinical development, formulation, process development and manufacturing, and compliance with national and World Health Organization regulations, streamlining the development process and allowing vaccines to become licensed more quickly.
Nearly every child in the world, rich or poor, is at risk of rotavirus infection, but an overwhelming majority of rotavirus-related deaths still occur in developing countries. By putting rotavirus and rotavirus vaccines in the spotlight, finding solutions to make existing vaccines more effective and accessible, and accelerating new vaccines, PATH and our partners are striving to right these imbalances, providing lifesaving protection to all children—no matter where they live.