Contact: Paul Quirk, 202.572.2879, 202.549.5394 (cell), Paul.Quirk@gmmb.com.
Seattle, November 23, 2009—The journal Vaccine has released a special edition, Rotavirus in Asia: Updates on Disease Burden, Genotypes and Vaccine Introduction. This special edition broadens understanding of the tremendous burden caused by rotavirus disease, which is responsible for almost half of acute diarrhea hospitalizations among Asian children under five. This special edition is especially relevant in light of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) June 2009 recommendation that vaccines preventing rotavirus—the most common and lethal form of diarrheal disease in young children—be included in every country’s national immunization program.
In addition to documenting rotavirus incidence and resulting hospitalizations in countries throughout Asia—from Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and India to China, Vietnam, and the rest of the Pacific Rim region—the edition also covers the distribution of rotavirus genotypes across the region and vaccine introduction efforts.
Nearly every child in the world gets rotavirus by age three, but the disease is often fatal in less developed Asian countries because many children cannot access emergency care, and to date, have not had access to rotavirus vaccines. The use of rotavirus vaccines in industrialized and developing countries has resulted in dramatic reductions of severe disease and even potential herd immunity among unvaccinated children.
The Vaccine special edition, published by Elsevier, highlights evidence that available vaccines can help ease the rotavirus disease burden and features a commentary article, “Rotavirus vaccines: The role of researchers in moving evidence to action,” which explores how researchers can begin to apply their data to inform policymaking.
“A decade of research on rotavirus in Asia demonstrates the tremendous potential for vaccination to prevent the most serious infections,” said Dr. John Wecker, director of the Vaccine Access and Delivery Global Program at PATH and lead author of the commentary. “With safe and efficacious rotavirus vaccines now available for widespread use, researchers need to help communicate this evidence to policymakers in the countries that carry the greatest burden.”
The commentary article outlines how researchers can become advocates for rotavirus vaccine introduction, encouraging them to do more to reach out and build partnerships with organizations advocating for child survival and to explain the significance of their research findings to policy decision-makers.
“Since the 1970s, I have dedicated my career to expanding the evidence-based for rotavirus disease,” said Dr. Yati Soenarto, a pediatrician and consultant in gastroenterology at the Universitas Gadjah Mada Medical School, who leads rotavirus surveillance efforts in Indonesia. “The surveillance work that went into this special edition on the rotavirus disease burden in Asia should compel us all to make sure the knowledge is used to do all we can to save children’s lives.”
Today, two orally administered vaccines preventing rotavirus—Rotarix™, produced by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, and RotaTeq®, produced by Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.—are pre-qualified by WHO and available for use in Asia. Progress is also being made by developing country manufacturers to produce rotavirus vaccines. The WHO recommendation on global use of rotavirus vaccines was based on large-scale clinical trials demonstrating vaccine efficacy in impoverished, high-mortality settings. Informed by the WHO decision, the GAVI Alliance has committed to providing eligible countries with financial support for rotavirus vaccine introduction and is currently accepting applications.
The Asian Rotavirus Surveillance Network, established in 1999, worked during the past decade to gather and provide rotavirus disease and strain burden data in 23 countries/regions, 11 of which are GAVI-eligible.