Nearly 2 million kids die of rotavirus each year: WHO

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Dr Kate O'Brien

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in children under five years globally, is responsible for up to 200,000 child deaths each year globally.

And, accessibility of vaccines can prevent these deaths. The WHO has pointed out that underprivileged children living in refugee campuses are the most vulnerable to suffer from rotavirus.

To tackle the problem and prevent these deaths, a pricing agreement through Humanitarian Mechanism has been done recently to make vaccines available for the children. This mechanism was founded in 2017 through a partnership of UN and civil society organizations - MSF, Save the Children, UNICEF and WHO.

The aforementioned organizations have welcomed the opportunity to make rotavirus vaccine available to more children living in humanitarian crises thanks to a landmark pricing agreement with the manufacturer, GSK.

Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, said: “We welcome this engagement from manufacturers and hope it will be a step towards making more vaccines available in the future at affordable prices.”

“It is unacceptable that some of the most at-risk children are not vaccinated against devastating diseases like rotavirus because of lack of availability or high costs,” said O’Brien.     

According to a report, nearly every child in the world is infected with a rotavirus at least once by the age of five. Rotavirus vaccine is the second vaccine to be accessed through the scheme, which depends on manufacturers making their vaccines available at their lowest price for use in emergencies - across countries of all income levels.

Rachel Cummings, Director of the Humanitarian Public Health Team at Save the Children, said, “Every day across the globe, children die because they are critically weakened by diarrhoea – it’s one of the biggest killers of young children in the world.”

“Save the Children is seeing the devastating impacts the rotavirus has on children every day, so we welcome this important commitment as a vital step in protecting some of the most vulnerable children from life-threatening, yet easily preventable diseases. Money should never be a barrier between life and death,” added Cummings.


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