A prophylactic vaccine to safeguard infants against the major killer rotavirus is now available in India where one in every 200 children under the age of five dies due to rotavirus diarrhoea.

The RotaTeq developed by pharmaceutical major MSD India (Merck in the US and Canada) has been launched as a pentavalent formulation (consisting of five common rotavirus serotypes).

Oral vaccine

The oral vaccine has to be administered over a three-dose schedule with the first dose to be given when the child is between 6 and 12 weeks of age.

Addressing a press conference, K. G. Ananthakrishnan, MSD Managing Director, said the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine would help countries like India fight an important infection that causes approximately 114 million cases of disease every year across the globe and accounts for over 6 lakh deaths.

Rotavirus, which presents as mild to severe watery diarrhoea with abrupt onset of fever and vomiting, is considered to be the single most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in children worldwide infecting virtually every child below five years of age.

Addition to adult vaccines

The paediatric vaccine adds to the existing adult and adolescent vaccines to provide a cover against the rotavirus across all age segments.

S. Balasubramanian, senior consultant, Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, said a prophylactic vaccine was the only solution against a universal scourge like the rotavirus, which was as much a threat in developed countries as it was in developing nations.

Clean water or hygiene is unlikely to have substantive effect in controlling the rotavirus gastroenteritis, he said. However, the death toll due to the virus is much higher in developing countries, he said.

Taking a cue from the World Health Organisation, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics too has recommended the inclusion of the rotavirus vaccine in the national universal immunisation programme in India.

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