Recently Health Minister of Afghanistan Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz has announced the induction of Rota vaccine in the country’s immunisation programme, a statement from Ministry of Public Health said.
“I would like to share the great news of introduction of the 13th antigen in our routine immunisation programme. From today, onward Rota vaccine will be added to our immunisation programme against fatal diarrhoeal diseases caused by rotavirus,” he told a gathering marking the launch of Rota vaccine.
Ministry of Public Health in close cooperation with its partners WHO and UNICEF had expanded cold chain capacity in the country, he said.
In additional Ministry of Finance, given the annual population growth has committed to provide 20 cents per each dose to GAVI annually.
“The estimated cost of each dose of Rota vaccine costs $2.19. The Rota vaccine has already been distributed to health facilities across the county and will be available beside other vaccine in the routine immunisation schedule from today.”
UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Adele Khodr commended the Ministry of Public Health of the government of Afghanistan for introducing several new vaccines to expand the number of preventable childhood diseases covered under routine immunisation programme.
She said diarrhoeal diseases have been one of the leading causes of childhood mortality and hospital admissions in children under five years of age in Afghanistan.
“The death toll from rotavirus infections in the development world in enormous. It infects nearly every child in this country before the age of five causing severe, dehydrating diarrhea,” said Khodr.
UNICEF would continue to collaborate with the government, development partners and donors to work toward strengthening of routine immunisation, so that every child in Afghanistan has the chance to grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
Rota virus kills about 215,000 children globally each year and send hundreds of thousands more to hospital, according to Estimates of Rotavirus Mortality in Children under the age of five, international studies show.
According to Lois Privor-Dumm, Director, Policy, Advocacy & Communications, International Vaccine Access Centre, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Rotavirus vaccine had a strong safety record and had been studied in every region of the world.
“Side-effects are rare, usually mild, and may include fussiness, fever, and diarrhoea. The vaccine is given orally -- drops into an infant’s mouth, which alleviates concerns some may have about additional injections” she said.
“Because diarrhoea is such a significant issue for families, the expectation is that acceptance will be high. That may also help with other vaccines. Awareness campaigns are planned around launch to build demand and there are efforts to sensitise religious leaders, teachers and frontline health workers to build confidence in vaccines,” said Lois.
“It is a process to engage families and those that influence them, but through informing them about the value of vaccines and addressing concerns, families begin to see the benefit and allow their children to be vaccinated as they are doing for polio vaccine,” she added.
It is obviously a great news for Afghanistan. The countries that have introduced this vaccine can see a very important reduction in hospitalisation and death. Rotavirus vaccines are saving lives and improving health in countries where they have been introduced as part of the routine childhood immunisation programme.
It is the high time for countries like Bangladesh to introduce the same vaccine. We will be doing a big disservice to our children if we do not get these vaccines to them. No child should die from diarrhoea. If we cannot talk about it, we cannot defeat it.