Govt’s rotavirus vaccination campaign likely to hit snag

Kathmandu, November 13

The government’s plan to administer rotavirus vaccination to children below the age of one year from the last week of December this year has hit a snag after the Indian pharmaceutical company expressed inability to supply the vaccine.

Dr Jhalak Gautam, chief of Child Health and Immunisation Section at Family Welfare Division, said GSK Company that supplied rotavirus vaccination had refused to supply the vaccine a month ago.

Rotaviruses, according to World Health Organisation, are the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children throughout the world. It is estimated that 527,000 children below the age of five years die each year from the infection of rotavirus and most of these children live in low-income countries.

WHO said rotavirus vaccines were an important measure which could be used to reduce severe rotavirus-associated diarrhoea and child mortality. 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.

“One of the main reasons of child mortality is a severe diarrhoeal disease caused by rotavirus,” said Gautam. “We had planned to start administering rotavirus vaccine to children below the age of one year. There are 630,000 children below one year in the country and we had requested the company to supply us the same quantity of vaccines. However, the company turned down our request at the last moment,” he said.

Gautam also said talks regarding the issue were on with the Ministry of Health and Population and Department of Health Services. “We are planning to place an order for the vaccine with another company,” he added.