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European experts from ESPID and ESPGHAN recommend the vaccination of infants against rotavirus

Experts from the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID) and the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) have produced new recommendations on the universal mass vaccination of infants against rotavirus gastroenteritis (RVGE) in Europe.

Each year, an estimated 3.6 million episodes of RVGE occur among the 23.6 million children under 5 years of age in the European Union.1 Yet early vaccination can provide a high degree of protection for infants before the peak incidence of the disease.

Prof. Dr. Timo Vesikari, University of Tampere, Finland, lead author for the European recommendations commented, “Rotavirus affects almost all young children causing severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In the most severe cases, infants may need to be hospitalised. This causes a considerable burden on hospitals where it can spread rapidly through paediatric wards. We convened a group of experts to address the rotavirus issue and have concluded that to effectively reduce the burden of rotavirus gastroenteritis in Europe, universal vaccination of infants is recommended. The vaccines available are effective, have a good safety profile and can fit in with existing national vaccine schedules.”

“This recommendation for universal vaccination against rotavirus is very good news for European infants, their parents and hospitals,” said Jean Stéphenne, president of GSK Biologicals. “Rotavirus vaccination can provide a high degree of protection against rotavirus disease and its distressing symptoms that many children suffer. Fortunately, not many children die in Europe from rotavirus infection, but the burden on healthcare resources needed in treating outbreaks of the disease is very high and the vaccine will resolve major issues for paediatric hospitals.”

Rotavirus is the primary cause of acute gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) leading to hospitalisation of infants and young children. New evidence presented today at the ESPID annual meeting shows that the burden of disease may be even higher than previously described. A study conducted in French, German, Italian, Spanish and UK hospitals investigated the burden of RVGE in children under 5 years of age over a 19-month period.2 The results show that rotavirus accounts for 56.2% of hospitalisations due to acute gastroenteritis. RVGE is more common in younger children, with a majority of cases occurring in children under 2 years and 18% of cases occurring in infants less than 6 months of age.2 Previous studies have reported that the duration of hospitalisation is longest in the youngest infants, particularly those who are under 4 months of age.3

Vaccination is the most effective way to provide a high level of protection for young children against RVGE.4,5 New data announced at the ESPID congress show that Rotarix™ provides sustained protection in children against RVGE up to the age of 2 years.6 Given in a convenient two-dose schedule, the oral vaccine offers early protection, before the peak incidence of the disease at 6-24 months.7 Rotarix™ prevents 96% of hospitalisations due to RVGE and reduces the need for medical attention by 84%.6 Principle investigator, Prof. Dr. Timo Vesikari, commented, “The new data substantiate the evidence for Rotarix™ showing that the vaccine’s efficacy is proven over the first two years of life which is the most vulnerable period to suffer from severe rotavirus gastroenteritis.”

Luke Willats | alfa
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