Wednesday, June 10, 2009

W.H.O Recommends Rotavirus for All Children

-C. Paula de los Angeles

In a statement last week, the World Health Organization recommended that all children be vacinnated against rotavirus, a disease that causes fatal diarrhea in 500,000 children a year. Without the vaccination, almost all children get infected with rotavirus by the age of three. Fortunately, children are administered rotavirus drops in the United States. An overwhelming 85% of the yearly deaths due to this disease occur in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America this is not the case.

The endorsement by the W.H.O will allow donor money to be used for the vaccine. The urging of the WHO to recommend this vaccination stems from clinical trials in South Africa and Malawi showing that the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine worked even in areas with "poor sanitation competing virus, high infant death rates, and mothers with AIDS". A competitor Merck vaccine is being tested in other countries.

Where does the money come in? Currently, the vaccine costs $20 and must be refrigerated (which is difficult in places that lack electricity). Much of the donor money has come from Dr.Tachi Yamada, president of global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, very much an advocate of the vaccine.

Personally, I think this is a great example of the power of W.H.O. Not only do people care what the W.H.O recommends, but such an endorsement allows for donor money to be used for the vaccine. In some ways, I think it reminds me of the need for institutional help and financial aid to support the idealistic views of many public health workers or citizens of the world who want to effect change in the places that need it the most.

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