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Child rotavirus vaccine an urgent priority

Media release

NZ paediatricians say child rotavirus vaccine an urgent priority

With rotavirus infections causing about 4500 children aged under five to go to hospital each year, the Paediatric Society of New Zealand has called for funding for infant vaccinations against the disease as an urgent priority, in a newly published position statement (click here for statement).

“Rotavirus is a nasty, highly-infectious disease that can have a dangerous effect on infants and children,” Dr Emma Best, Chair of the Society’s Infection and Immunisation Speciality Group, said.

“In acute cases, children can have diarrhoea up to 20 times a day, causing severe dehydration, hospitalisation and in very rare cases even brain damage.”

In the position statement the Society said gastroenteritis infections, causing vomiting and diarrhoea, were the most common medically preventable cause of acute hospital admissions in children, with admission rates almost doubling from 1989 to 2008, across all age groups.3,4,5

Rotavirus, which accounts for over 42% of all gastroenteritis infections in under 3 year olds, affects virtually all New Zealand children by the time they are aged three years and costs more than $7 million, primarily from hospital care costs and lost income for caregivers.1,2 “Vaccination is very effective – up to 90% – in preventing severe illness from rotavirus and lessens hospitalisations” says Dr Best.6

Parents wanting to vaccinate their children must currently pay for the vaccine.

Rotavirus immunisation is part of the core childhood immunisation schedule in many countries, including Australia where it has been funded for all children since 2007.7-9 The World Health Organisation has recommended universal vaccination in infancy.7,11

“Our urgent call for a rotavirus vaccine to be funded as a priority within the national immunisation schedule echoes calls by not only the New Zealand Immunisation Technical Forum back in 200610 but also the World Health Organisation in 2009”11 concludes Dr Best.


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