Health ministry set to put rotavirus vaccine on regular immunisation listRotavirus causes severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain in children
The Ministry of Health and Population is planning to introduce rotavirus vaccine as part of the standard immunisation schedule in a bid to lower the mortality rate of children under five years.
Rotavirus causes severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain in children. It could be fatal if children infected with the virus are not treated immediately.
“We are going to introduce this vaccine within this year,” said Dr Jhalak Sharma, chief of child health and immunisation section at the Female Welfare Division of the Department of Health Services. “We will ensure that every child of eligible age group across the country gets access to the vaccine.”
Diarrhoea is the most common illness among children and continues to be one of the major causes of childhood morbidity and mortality, according to the National Demographic Health Survey 2016. The study shows that six percent of the children under the age of six months suffer from diarrhoeal infection. The infection rate sharply rises to 15 percent by the time they reach 11 months.
Of the total diarrhoeal cases, the virus causes 30 percent of total diarrhoea episodes in children under the age of five.
“With the introduction of the vaccine we can reduce the infection of rotavirus and deaths of children caused by the virus,” Sharma said.
The mortality rate of children under five years in the country stands at 39 per 1,000 live births since 2016.
According to Sharma, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations will be providing rotavirus vaccines in the initial stage.
Authorities have already conducted a trial run of the vaccine at Kanti Children Hospital on children suffering from diarrhoeal infection caused by rotavirus. Sharma said the oral vaccine is safe and will have minimal side effects.
With the introduction of rotavirus vaccine, the number of vaccines to be administered to the children up to 15 months of age under the regular immunisation programme will reach 12.
Dr Bikas Lamichhane, former director at the then Child Health Division under the Department of Health Services, said that the immunisation process is cost-effective and an efficient way to control and eliminate the vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We are already late in introducing the rotavirus vaccine in the regular immunization list,” said Lamichhane. “We cannot reduce the existing child mortality rate without reducing deaths caused by diarrhoeal infection.”