New vaccine against rotavirus to protect 675,000 babies each year in England

Rotavirus infection is one of the most common causes of diarrhea and vomiting (gastroenteritis) in children aged five years and under. Studies show that nearly every child in England will develop rotavirus gastroenteritis at some point by the time they are five years of age. To protect children against the infection, a new vaccination programme has been introduced beginning from 1st July, 1013.

Rotavirus vaccination

The new vaccination programme will involve giving babies at two and three months of age a rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, to protect them from the highly infectious rotavirus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration and abdominal pain in infants and very young children.

According to Public Health England (PHE), rotavirus vaccine will be offered every year and protect more than 675,000 babies from infection. Rotavirus is responsible for 13,000 hospitalisations and 130,000 GP surgeries each year in England. Officials hope vaccination will half the number of new infections and cut hospital stays by 70%.

Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Rotavirus is a highly infectious and unpleasant illness that affects thousands of young children each year. While most recover within a few days, nearly 1 in 5 will need to see their doctor, and 1 in 10 will end up in hospital as a result.

“Although good hygiene measures can help prevent spread of the disease, the best way to protect your baby from catching rotavirus is to get them vaccinated.

“The new vaccine will provide protection to those young babies who are most vulnerable to complications arising from rotavirus. From now on parents will be offered this protection alongside their baby’s other childhood vaccinations.”

More vaccination programmes on the way

The rotavirus vaccination programme is the first in a series of new or amended vaccination programs the PHE plans to introduce this year in partnership with NHS England and the Department of Health. A meningococcal group C booster jab for children aged 12 and 13 years will be introduced from September to replace the one given at four months that was withdrawn in June. In addition, vaccinations against shingles and expansion of the flu vaccination programme will be started later on in 2013.

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