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WHO recommends rotavirus vaccines

The World Health Organisation's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has responded to data from clinical trials

The World Health Organisation's (WHO's) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has responded to data from clinical trials and recommended global use of rotavirus vaccines.

The research was partly funded by the GAVI Alliance (formerly called The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) and carried out by the charity PATH, WHO, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and research institutions. It found that vaccines reduced severe diarrhoea in low socio-economic settings in South Africa and Malawi. This built on earlier studies that demonstrated safety and efficacy in low and intermediate mortality populations – leading to recommendations for the vaccine in the Americas and Europe. 

The clinical trial investigators from Malawi and South Africa will present and publish their data on the GSK Rotarix vaccine later this summer. Data on Merck's rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, from clinical trials in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ghana, Mali, and Kenya are expected in the autumn.

The GAVI Alliance has provided financial support to developing countries for rotavirus vaccine since 2006. The expanded recommendation from WHO should enable low-income countries in Africa and Asia to apply.

Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said: "This WHO recommendation clears the way for vaccines that will protect children in the developing world from one of the most deadly diseases they face."

SAGE stressed the importance of a comprehensive strategy for controlling diarrhoeal disease – including improvement of water quality, hygiene and sanitation with provision of oral rehydration solution and zinc supplements. 

8th June 2009

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