Rotavirus vaccine to be free from 2013
ABU DHABI - Vaccination against rotavirus, the leading cause of severely dehydrating diarrhoea and infection (rotavirus gastroenteritis) in infants and young children, will become part of the national immunisation programme from next year.
This means that the rotavirus vaccine, which currently has to be paid for by parents, will soon be given free of charge to babies below eight months.
According to her, the plan was aimed at reducing infection and “economic burden in hospitals”. Including rotavirus in the immunisation programme is also more cost-effective than the treatment.
“About 30 per cent of gastroenteritis episode in children below five years is due to rotavirus,” Dr Al Shehhi said.
“Rotavirus is by far one of the leading reasons for (hospital) admission of children,” Dr Eeva Liisa Langille, head paediatrician and neonatologist at Burjeel Hospital, told Khaleej times. And depending on the severity, hospital confinement could take up to four days.
During the season when the virus is active, a hospital sees between three to four admissions a day or 30-40 a month, said Dr Langille, who has 25 years of experience in her field. She has previously worked with Tawam Hospital and the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City.
Although the inoculation will not altogether prevent gastroenteritis from occurring, it could, however, prevent hospital admission and will lessen the duration and severity of illness.
Rotavirus vaccines are currently available in oral drops of two or three doses, and costs from Dh255 per dose for Rotarix (two doses) and Dh273 per dose for RotaTeq (three doses).
“It is advisable to give the vaccines starting from two months or seven weeks’ old and completed before the baby reaches seven months, with either four weeks or two months apart,” advised Dr Langille.
School vaccination programmeThis year, two vaccines will be added to the school vaccination programme — pertussis and varicella (chickenpox).
Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine is also being considered to be introduced in future for Grade 11.
Pertussis, a disease that causes coughing episode, shortness of breath and could lead to respiratory failure, will be given to Grade 1 and 11 students together with tetanus and diphtheria starting 2012-2013.
Varicella, meanwhile, will be given to Grade 1 pupils who have not been immunised against chickenpox as infants when the vaccine was introduced in the national immunisation programme in 2010.
“Chickenpox is one of the most contagious diseases in the world... it makes you itch and causes big burden for children as well as for mothers who have to miss work to take care of their child,” said Dr Langille. Chickenpox, which could last between seven to ten days, can cause severe infection in adults.
National immunisation programmeThe National Immunisation Programme in the UAE helps protect residents against a range of preventable diseases. The programme began in 1980 with vaccines against six diseases — tuberculosis, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tetanus, measles and pertussis.
Since then, a number of vaccines have been added to prevent more diseases. They include mumps and rubella in 1985, hepatitis B in 1990, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) in 1999, Pneumococcal conjugate serotype 7 in 2007 and Human Papilloma in 2008.
In 2010, the oral polio vaccine was replaced by injectable poliovirus vaccine at the age of two months and varicella (chickenpox) at 12 months. And in 2011, Pneumococcal conjugate serotype 7 was replaced by Pneumococcal conjugate serotype 13 and the oral polio vaccine was replaced by injectable poliovirus vaccine at the age of four months.
“The schedule is regularly updated to add new vaccines, better combinations of vaccines, and new vaccines for different age groups,” said Dr Al Shehhi.