Rotavirus vaccine set to lower high Zim child mortality rate

HARARE — Following recent reports that Zimbabwe will from next year introduce a new vaccine known as rotavirus for children under the age of five, health experts have commended the government saying the development will help save the lives of many children.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 14,0000 children in Zimbabwe die each year from diarhoea largely caused by the rotavirus.

Experts say these deaths will be a thing of the past if the rotavirus vaccine is introduced in the country.

Itai Rusike, director of the Community Working Group on Health, says it is unfortunate that children continue dying in Zimbabwe when such deaths can be prevented.

Rusike says Zimbabwe’s child mortality rate is a cause of concern. According to the UNICEF, as many as 100 children die each year in Zimbabwe due to largely preventable illnesses such as diarhoea.

Rusike says the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine will certainly help in the overall reduction of the child mortality rate in the country and thus contribute to efforts being made by Zimbabwe to reach its Millenium Development Goals of reducing deaths among children below the age of five.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Doctors’ Association, agrees with Rusike saying the combination of the rotavirus vaccine and the other infant vaccines will protect a lot of children.

Dr. Gwatidzo, however, warns that the country should not introduce the vaccine before it has adequately mobilised financial resources as it is very expensive.

Last year, government introduced the vaccine for the prevention of pneumonia in another effort to reduce vaccine-preventable illnesses. This was done with the support of organisations such as the UNICEF and the Global Alliance for Vaccines International (GAVI).

According to the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). The rotavirus disease causes severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain.

It says in babies and young children, it can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids). Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide. Globally, it causes more than a half a million deaths each year in children younger than 5 years of age.

Rotavirus was also the leading cause of severe diarrhea in U.S. infants and young children.