Malawi has reduced by almost half the number of severe rotavirus diarrhoea episodes among infants and children since introducing the vaccine some five years ago.
Professor Nigel Cunliffe from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom (UK) told the media in Blantyre yesterday ahead of the 11th Africa Rotavirus Symposium the country is hosting.
Cunliffe said since Malawi introduced rotavirus vaccines the country has made great strides in reducing cases of children hospitalisation due to rotavirus diarrhoea.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea leading to dehydration among infants and under-five children in Malawi and other countries.
“The roll out of the vaccine has been high across all regions reaching coverage levels of up to 90 percent,” said Cunliffe, who is also co-chairperson of the symposium.
Malawi was one of the first four African countries after Sudan, Ghana and Rwanda to introduce the vaccine into their national immunisation programme in 2012.
“Rotavirus immunisation is the best hope for protection for infants and under-five children against rotavirus diarrhoea. In our studies over the past 20 years or so, rotavirus is responsible of an estimated 40 percent of severe diarrhoea and it is estimated about 5 000 childrenwere dying in Malawi before introducing the vaccine,” he said.
Co-chairperson of the symposium, Dr Khuzwayo Jere from College of Medicine, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), said the conference would bring together global experts to share up-to-date data and experiences on viral diarrheal diseases.
He said Malawi had the opportunity to host the symposium partly due to its work on clinical trials that were pivotal to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to recommend global introduction of rotavirus vaccine.
The symposium, jointly organised by the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, College of Medicine and Ministry of Health, will take place in Lilongwe from 28 May to 30 with over 300 delegates from over 40 countries expected to attend.n