A national rotavirus vaccination programme in India would prevent substantial deaths due to the rotavirus and would be highly cost-effective, a recent article in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal has recommended.

The article, penned by experts in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in association with the department of Gastrointestinal Sciences, Christian Medical College, Vellore, aimed at assessing the value of such a vaccination in India. The rotavirus is said to be the most common cause of severe dehydrating gastroenteritis in children under five years globally. It causes an estimated 5,27,000 deaths in India, the paper said, quoting sources. It is also clear that improvement in sanitation and hygiene have not had substantial effects on the incidence, and therefore, vaccination is considered the best means of controlling the disease, authors Douglas Esposito, Jacqueline Tate, Gagandeep Kang and Umesh Parashar, have said.

The WHO now recommends inclusion of rotavirus vaccine in the vaccination schedule across the world.

Such a national vaccination programme would prevent about 44,000 deaths, at least 2,93,000 hospitalisations and nearly 3,28,000 outpatient visits annually, the authors have concluded. With an estimated 50 per cent effectiveness of the vaccine available, and factoring in Disability-Adjusted Life-Year (DALY), it was estimated that the reductions in rotavirus disease brought about by vaccination would save the health care system in India about US $ 20.6 million annually in medical treatment costs (US $ 19.7 million in hospitalisation and US $ 0.9 million in outpatient visit costs) working out to about US $ 0.76 per child.

The authors further added that although rotavirus vaccination is likely to have substantial public health impact in India, their analyses indicated that only approximately one third of the estimated rotavirus-associated deaths would be averted by vaccination. “Efforts to improve the vaccination coverage rates in India could further enhance the life-saving benefits and public health impact of this intervention.”