Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Rotavirus

Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children throughout the world. According to WHO 2004 estimates, 527 000 children aged <5 years die each year from vaccine-preventable rotavirus infections; most of these children live in low-income countries.

Two oral, live, attenuated rotavirus vaccines, Rotarix and RotaTeq, are available internationally; and both vaccines are considered safe and effective in preventing gastrointestinal disease.

WHO recommends that rotavirus vaccine for infants should be included in all national immunization programmes. In countries where diarrhoeal deaths account for ≥10% of mortality among children aged <5 years, the introduction of the vaccine is strongly recommended. WHO recommends that the first dose of either RotaTeq or Rotarix be administered at age 6–15 weeks. The maximum age for administering the last dose of either vaccine should be 32 weeks.

WHO reiterates that rotavirus vaccines are an important measure that can be used to reduce severe rotavirus-associated diarrhoea and child mortality. The use of rotavirus vaccines should be part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrhoeal diseases; this strategy should include, among other interventions, improvements in hygiene and sanitation, zinc supplementation, community-based administration of oral rehydration solution and overall improvements in case management.

WHO position paper

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Last updated: 12 April 2010

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