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Australian national immunisation reduces hospitalisations

Australian national immunisation programme achieves massive reduction in hospitalisations for gastroenteritis virus that causes hospital visits for nearly 5,000 NZ children each year1,2

WELLINGTON, (8 March, 2012): The effects of a highly contagious virus, which every year causes thousands of New Zealand children to go to hospital have been significantly reduced in Australia according to follow-up research on the roll-out of a new vaccination programme over the last four years.1–4

Associated with rapid onset of fever and vomiting, followed by profuse diarrhoea, rotavirus results in more than 90 percent of New Zealand children being infected with gastrointestinal illness by the age of three.5 More severe cases of rotavirus gastroenteritis result in nearly 5,000 hospitalisations or Emergency Department visits and approximately 10,000 GP consultations each year.2

Citing “remarkable” results from the roll-out of a rotavirus immunisation programme in Australia, expatriate New Zealand Paediatrician, Professor Keith Grimwood says the introduction of the vaccine had resulted in a 75-90 percent reduction in rotavirus gastroenteritis hospital admissions for children under the age of five.1,6

“What we’ve seen in Australia is remarkable. As well as more than a 90 percent reduction in hospital admissions for rotavirus gastroenteritis amongst infants, two years after the introduction of the immunisation programme we saw a 48 percent reduction in all types of gastroenteritis hospital admissions for all children under the age of six years” Professor Grimwood said.

“Rotavirus is a highly contagious disease. Globally it is the cause of death for almost half a million children and hospitalises around two million each year. While careful hygiene practices go some way toward preventing the spread of infection, vaccination programmes have proven to be the most effective measure in reducing incidence of rotavirus gastroenteritis.”

“The results achieved in Australia indicate that it is possible to protect against this disease, bringing significant benefits to families and patients, and savings to the health system.”

Point Chevalier mother Sarah Marsh knows only too well the impact of rotavirus on the family. In 2008, her two-and-a-half year old twins and her four-and-a-half year old son contracted the disease.

“I thought it was just a vomiting and diarrhoea bug that would pass, but the twins were sick throughout the night. The boys had two bed changes each and in the morning this dreadful diarrhoea started.”

The vaccine available in New Zealand is Rotarix (rotavirus oral vaccine, GSK) and is given in two doses.7 The first dose must be given at 6–14 weeks of age and the second at 10–24 weeks of age with a minimum interval of 4 weeks between doses.7 The doses can be given at the same time as other vaccines on the New Zealand immunisation schedule.7,8

For more information on the Rotarix vaccine, parents should talk to their GP, Practice Nurse or visit


Professor Keith Grimwood
Professor Keith Grimwood graduated from Otago University in 1977 and undertook paediatric training in New Zealand, the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and at the University of Calgary in Canada. He was Senior Lecturer in Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Otago-Wellington and is currently Director of the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, Conjoint Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Queensland and Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane. His research interests include rotavirus gastroenteritis, for which he received a MD, the microbiology of cystic fibrosis lung disease, respiratory viruses and neonatal infections.


1. Buttery JP et al. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2011;30:S25-29.

2. Milne R and Grimwood K. Expert Rev. Pharmacoeconomics Outcomes Res. 2009;9:401–4.

3. Field EJ et al Pediatrics 2010;126:e506-12.

4. Macartney KK et al. J Paediatr Child Health 2011;47:266-70.

5. Grimwood K et al. J Paediatr Child Health 2006;42:196–203.

6. Clarke MF et al. Vaccine 2011;29:4663-7.

7. Rotarix® Data Sheet. GlaxoSmithKline NZ Ltd. April 2011.

8. Ministry of Health. Immunisation Handbook 2011. Wellington: Ministry of Health; 2011.

Rotarix® (rotavirus oral vaccine) is available as a liquid suspension for ORAL administration, and contains not less than 106•0 CCID50 per 1•5mL dose. The vaccination course consists of two doses and should be completed by the age of 24 weeks. The first dose must be given between 6 and 14 weeks of age, with an interval before the second dose of at least 4 weeks. Rotarix is a private-purchase prescription medicine for the prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis (mild to severe nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhoea caused by rotavirus). You will need to pay for this medicine. Rotarix does not protect against gastroenteritis due to causes other than rotavirus. Use strictly as directed. ROTARIX IS AN ORAL VACCINE AND SHOULD NEVER BE INJECTED. Your child should not have a Rotarix vaccination if they have an allergy to any component of the vaccine or to other rotavirus vaccines; have an acute fever; have a history of chronic gastrointestinal disease or intussusception; have congenital malformation of the gastrointestinal tract; or have an inherited disorder called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). Before receiving Rotarix, tell your doctor if your child is suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting. After your child receives Rotarix, be sure to wash your hands after changing the child’s nappies. Side effects may include diarrhoea, excess gas in the stomach or bowel, stomach pain or discomfort, or skin rash. If your child has side effects (especially severe abdominal pain or bloating, persistent vomiting, bloody stools, or high fever), contact your doctor, pharmacist, or health professional. Additional Consumer Medicine Information for Rotarix is available at Normal doctor's office visit fees apply. Ask your doctor if Rotarix is right for your child. Rotarix is a registered trade mark of the GlaxoSmithKline group of companies. Marketed by GlaxoSmithKline NZ Limited, Auckland. TAPS DA4311IG/12/041.

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