Maintaining the momentum for rotavirus immunization in Africa

Cape Town | Maintaining the momentum for rotavirus vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic remains critical for the health of the continent’s young children – a matter that will top the agenda at the virtual 13th African Rotavirus Symposium to be held on 3 and 4 November 2021.  

Organised under the auspices of the African Rotavirus Network (AfrRN), the symposium will be hosted by  University of Nairobi, Kenya in partnership with Ministry of Health, Kenya, Kenya Paediatric Association, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

This biannual gathering brings together rotavirus researchers, policymakers, clinicians, public health practitioners and health officials with the primary aim of sharing ideas, expertise and learning across organizations and countries in the areas of rotavirus vaccine introduction, vaccine impact and diarrheal disease prevention and control in Africa. This year’s symposium   will reflect largely on the challenges and progress made in rotavirus vaccine introduction in Africa in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other key discussion topics include an evaluation of the potential economic and health impact of rotavirus vaccination in 63 middle-income countries not eligible for Gavi-support. More than 200 expected delegates will also get an update on the latest rotavirus research undertaken, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the biggest COVID-19 vaccination campaign in history currently underway in Africa and globally, the two-day meeting also hopes to capitalize on the already fertile environment to further accelerate rotavirus vaccine introduction and scale-up in Africa. Currently, 38 of 54 (70%) of the continent’s countries have introduced rotavirus vaccine and have included it as part of their national immunization programmes.

Despite being preventable, rotavirus remains the leading cause of severe diarrhea and a threat to the health of young children in Africa and globally. On average, rotavirus kills more than 200 000 African children each year and causes a significant proportion of diarrheal disease hospitalisations. A decade ago, rotavirus accounted for 42% of all diarrheal disease hospitalisations in sub-Saharan Africa. However, since the introduction of rotavirus vaccine, evidence shows a reduction of rotavirus diarrheal disease, with a decline in hospitalizations by 54-58% between 2010 and 2011 in children under five years, and a temporal decrease in all-cause diarrhea of 40-65% between 2006 and 2014 in children younger than two years.

According to Symposium Chair, Professor Frederick Were from the University of Nairobi, to keep the momentum for rotavirus immunization during the COVID-19 era, there are valuable lessons to be drawn from efforts by the global health community in minimizing COVID-19 risks – where new vaccines are gradually being introduced and made available. “During this period, vaccine-preventable childhood diseases such as rotavirus still exists and therefore it is essential to continue introducing vaccines in other African countries to prevent an increase in mortality of children from this virus,” said Prof Were, adding that they call on all those who are involved in mitigating the effects of rotavirus to register for the Symposium which will take the format of one 3-hour session per day.

Registration for the symposium closes on 22 October 2021 | Click Here

13th African Rotavirus Symposium Programme | Read More

The 13th African Rotavirus Symposium (ARS) is organised under the auspices of the African Rotavirus Network (AfrRN). The AfrRN is a regional network of countries and institutions conducting research on paediatric diarrheal diseases. It was established in 1998 in order to address diarrheal disease in Africa; to determine the rotavirus burden of disease; examine the diversity of circulating strains; and to increase awareness around rotavirus disease in Africa.

Release date: 
Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 14:31
Dumile Mlambo
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