As the WHO South-East Asia Region prepares to celebrate the second anniversary of polio-free certification on 27 March WHO congratulates India for making further progress in securing children’s health by introducing a rotavirus vaccine into its Universal Immunization Programme.
Rotavirus kills approximately 453 000 children under five years of age globally every year and is a major threat to the health of children across the WHO South-East Asia Region. Every year, approximately 127 000 children aged less than five years die of the disease in the SEA Region, around 98 000 of whom are in India. Rotavirus is highly contagious; there are no specific drugs to treat the disease.
Since 2009 WHO has recommended countries introduce rotavirus vaccines into routine immunization programs as part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrheal diseases. The vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, and where introduced have resulted in dramatically lower rates of diarrhea-related hospitalization and death of children. They are also shown to be cost-effective.
India’s decision to introduce the rotavirus vaccines as part of its routine program marks an immensely important step for the health and wellbeing of the country’s children.
As we celebrate the momentous Region-wide gains for children’s health that eradicating polio represents, we must continue our quest to secure the health of every child. We must make rotavirus vaccination routine.
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